Why Cainhoy Plantation will be developed on one master plan
I have been fortunate to represent the Guggenheim family and corporate interests on the stewardship of Cainhoy Plantation for many years. I am in the same role as I was in the early 1990s when Daniel Island, then owned by the Guggenheims, was annexed into the City of Charleston and moved from plantation use to the vibrant mixed use community it is today.
When Daniel Island was planned, one of the Guggenheims' goals was to carry over the same principles to the main plantation property in the future. That is the effort at hand. I appreciate the opportunity to provide both background and perspective to the public that has not been represented in extensive media coverage or by special interest groups.
Cainhoy Plantation underwent original planning almost 20 years ago when it was annexed into the City of Charleston. The city initially envisioned a place to locate industry and jobs associated with industry. Upon annexation, the plantation, within the urban growth corridor, was granted very broad, unrestricted zoning entitlements that allow almost all land uses.
The decision now facing the Charleston Planning Commission and City Council, and the trigger for all the recent conversation about Cainhoy Plantation, is whether to rezone the property. The existing "CY zoning" is wide open, allowing the owners to unilaterally change their master vision for the property without city input or approval. The proposed PUD (Planned Unit Development) replacement zoning is restrictive and will give the city and public a greater role over the coming decades in implementing the vision expressed in the PUD master plan. The existing CY zoning can be used to create a first class development; however, the owners believe that it would be beneficial to both the public and private interests to create high quality development under PUD zoning, particularly if sales to third parties become part of the program.
The proposed PUD zoning is a refined version of the award winning zoning that the Guggenheim landowners put in place for Daniel Island in 1993. It is quite simple and calls for only two major zones: residential and mixed use. It provides for diverse neighborhoods, affordable housing, required open parks and trails and many other things the Guggenheim ownership interests made sure were integral zoning components of Daniel Island. It preserves over half of the property as open space with an interconnected network of open space and parks weaving through the community. Development will start with much needed school campuses and surrounding neighborhoods.
This has not been a rushed process, as some have said. In 2008, the Berkeley County School District requested a site for a high school, necessitating planning to begin. The time frame for the school became more pressing two years ago, and planning moved into full gear so that these additions could be made in proper context. The public portion of the planning process began last fall and will continue over the next couple of months. This has been a long, deliberate exercise and development of the property will happen over the course of decades.
Over the course of the past several months we have organized numerous public meetings, met extensively with neighboring Cainhoy/Wando/Huger communities, and spent time with special interest groups to gather input. In all, we have heard from well over 600 people throughout the process. The conversations at those forums have centered on topics that are different from what certain media and special interest groups have focused on. We have heard the community's concerns and ideas and, as a result, have adjusted and improved our PUD master plan.
One issue raised was the location of a commerce/light industrial zone on Cainhoy Road with resulting increased truck traffic. As a result, we have eliminated this zone completely.
Similarly, the community talked about the look and feel of Cainhoy Road. In an effort to preserve the conditions, a Greenbelt paralleling the National Forest has been written into our zoning and road access curb cuts will be limited there.
The historic communities of Wando, Huger and Jack Primus have asked for lands where their communities might have a chance to expand. This area would include a broad range of housing types. It's a progressive concept that we have incorporated into our plan.
We also heard about a greatly increased need for public schools. In addition to the initial proposed high school, we have offered to donate land for an elementary school and a middle school. Thousands of families will benefit.
Alternatively, the focus by media and special interest groups has been on completely different concerns. One request has been to break the planning for the property into segments as opposed to comprehensive planning for the whole property. We see no rationale to placing well thought out controls on one part of the property and leaving another part unplanned. It is our experience that first-class development requires comprehensive, not piecemeal, planning so that all components of the planned community work harmoniously together and are relevant within a local and regional context. And it enables us to work closely with the entire community as well as city staff about their aspirations for the property and to refine regulatory processes accordingly.
Much has also been written about longleaf pine trees, which have been grown on this property as a production tree for many years. The property is an active and sustainable silvaculture operation and the trees are planted and not old growth stands such as has been described. Concern has also been expressed that development on Cainhoy Plantation will eliminate controlled burning in the National Forest. We are active foresters and controlled burns are now, and will remain in the future, an essential part of the Cainhoy Plantation land management. Nothing will be done to limit Forest Service operations in any way, and that long-standing cooperative relationship will continue.
Special-interest groups have gone so far as to prepare an aggressive and unrealistic alternative master plan. Done without the owners' knowledge or consent, this plan strips about half of the land of development rights in an unprecedented land grab that tramples on basic property rights. It ignores basic economics by placing affordable housing on the largest lots at 1.5 units per acre and all of the remaining residences on the smallest lots at 7 units per acre to 14 units per acre.
The Cainhoy area of Charleston is a busy and vibrant place. It is a gateway to both the City of Charleston and the Town of Mount Pleasant. It is already a jobs center, and the opportunity to bring residential and employment uses is an attractive challenge.
The Guggenheim ownership has demonstrated best practices for turning plantation land into a vibrant community with its vision for the development of Daniel Island.
The evolution of Cainhoy will begin this year, with schools leading the way. The question before the city is whether to plan and develop the community under existing CY zoning or the proposed PUD zoning based on the Daniel Island code.
In all events, this property will be developed as one community and requires one comprehensive master plan, not two.
Matt Sloan, president of the Daniel Island Company, represents the Guggenheim family in its proposed development of Cainhoy Plantation.