Many James Island residents still reeling from the shock of acres of trees being cleared along Maybank Highway want to know about other proposed development projects, said Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey.
That's why he called a meeting Wednesday to help island residents learn about projects that might impact their lives before bulldozers started turning dirt. He also wanted to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns about island development and transportation issues. Dozens of residents packed James Island Town Hall for the meeting.
The tree clearing for the city's new "gathering place" zoning on Maybank Highway, where a 280-unit apartment complex and a six-level parking garage are being built, deeply upset many island residents, Qualey said. "It's the poster boy of bad planning," he said, because it will bring a huge amount of traffic to Maybank Highway.
Residents reached out to him after the trees were cleared and said, "Wow, this is what they've done to us," Qualey said. "It's as slick as a bowling ball."
Tim Keane, the city of Charleston's director of planning, preservation and sustainability attended the meeting to answer questions. He said there currently are only two areas on James Island that have "Gathering Place" zoning. One of those areas is near the intersection of Folly Road and Maybank Highway, which will be built over the next 10 to 20 years. The other is near the intersection of Folly Road and Riverland Drive. No plans currently are in the works for that development.
Keane said "Gathering Place" zoning is part of the city's plan to limit growth in currently rural areas, and instead promote mixed use and denser development in certain key areas.
Several areas on the island are poised for development, Keane said. But most of those developments will largely be made up of single-family homes, with some apartments. They include:
Battery Island Drive, where a 300-unit complex is proposed.
Grimball Farm, where 250 highland acres could be developed with single-family homes, but no specific development plans currently are in the works.
The Dill Tract, where the First Baptist Church is building a gym and possibly a high school. The church also plans to sell about 40 acres, on which single-family homes will be built.
James Island resident David Jallow said he's not opposed to development. But he thinks officials need to be careful where they allow development. And they also need to make sure there's a plan to manage traffic after developments are built.
He's especially concerned about traffic on Folly and Harborview roads, which already is horrendous, he said. "There's a lot of talk (about congestion) but nothing gets done."
Mildred Whaley, a lifelong resident of James Island, said she attended the meeting mostly to learn about how development will impact traffic.
Some of her neighbors have told her they have been stuck in traffic on Folly Road for more than an hour during the summer, when people are headed to the beach.
Qualey said James Island residents simply want development to be consistent with the island's character. "We don't want a repeat of what happened on Maybank Highway. The city came up with a plan and just did it without thinking of residents' concerns."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.