The final chapter has not been written for the development of Cainhoy Plantation. But Charleston City Council has made a happy ending more difficult to achieve.
Instead of pressuring the developer to make concessions in light of multiple public concerns, Council unanimously gave the owners the zoning designation they requested Tuesday - even after some members said the opponents' concerns had validity.
That outcome means the owners can proceed with building plans immediately.
The owners' intentions, generally outlined in a master plan, include developing the entire 9,000-acre site for residential, commercial and retail uses. Neighbors, preservationists, environmentalists and historians have all pleaded for a less intense plan that would not sacrifice the extraordinary property's natural beauty, its wildlife and its rich historical sites. Long-standing neighboring communities also fear that their rural lifestyle will be overwhelmed by traffic and that property values will be inflated.
And while both the city's Planning Commission and Council professed empathy for the opponents, they granted the developers' proposed zoning status.
Yet there is still a chance that governmental entities, including City Council, could stand stronger when the owners return for approval to proceed with individual projects.
First up is likely the sale of a piece of the property to the Berkeley County School District for a high school. Then perhaps the developers will seek a permit for residences that the school will serve.
Most problematic is not the school area on the southern portion of the property, but the northern portion. It contains rare longleaf pines and sites that tell the history of the people who have lived there, including Native Americans and free black people. Historians and preservationists want assurance that those sites are identified and protected.
The land is also part of a swath of greenbelt properties, many of them under conservation easements. As home to people living in 19,000 residences driving their cars to shop in new stores, Cainhoy Plantation would no longer be a part of that important green buffer.
Further, while the owners proudly say that Cainhoy Plantation will be built on the same principles as Daniel Island (like Cainhoy, Daniel Island was owned by Guggenheim family interests), neighbors say that could be disastrous to their way of life and culture.
All who raised alarms about the master plan for Cainhoy Plantation will have more opportunities for input as specifics emerge and the owners seek necessary city and state permits.
So though City Council's approval of the master plan was a disappointment to those who would protect Cainhoy Plantation from inappropriate development, it shouldn't be seen as a reason to give up.
Environmentalists can continue to look for buyers interested in conserving as much of Cainhoy Plantation as possible. They should continue to seek the cooperation of the Guggenheims.
Meanwhile, neighbors can continue to honor their history, culture and way of life. Historians can document the treasures of Cainhoy Plantation that should be preserved.
And maybe local and state governmental bodies will ultimately see the irreplaceable value of Cainhoy Plantation and do their part to save it.
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