The need for public restrooms in downtown Charleston's historic district was one of several issues residents brought up at a public forum held Monday by some of Charleston's chief tourism officials.
The possibility of residents-only parking, and the regulation of special events held on the Charleston peninsula, were also part of the conversation.
The forum, which was a first step in the city's initiative to update its 16-year-old Tourism Management Plan, was carefully designed to keep it from serving as a soap box. The format relied on comment cards rather than speeches from attendees.
"This is a serious undertaking, and the process requires specific suggestions from the community, not just where they come in and scream about an issue and then leave," said city planner Tim Keane. "This is a complex community task, and we want, in writing, what specific issues and solutions people can think of."
Attendees were instructed to write their questions on note cards which were drawn at random by a moderator. A handful of those questions were posed to the panel, which included Keane; Vanessa Turner Maybank, the city's director of tourism; Katherine Robinson, chairwoman of the tourism advisory committee and CEO of the Historic Charleston Foundation; and Bing Pan, the head of research with the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis.
A question that was met by some rumblings from the crowd was the issue of public restrooms, which has been brought to the city's attention several times in the past.
Maybank said the city has arranged task forces before to handle the issue, but residential concerns and sewer problems often have stood in the way of a solution.
"There was research done about the possibility of bathrooms in White Point Garden ... when they looked at the sewer systems, it was not something that would have been conducive to the area."
Keane added that the city's attention to the issue has not faded.
"There is a consensus that (public bathrooms) are needed," he said. "A group will work on that specifically to look at where that issue will go."
Another question centered on how the city planned to manage special events in the city, which have grown by more than 60 percent in the past four years.
Keane said the city may consider a cap for the number of events in downtown Charleston. The tourism ordinance on the books doesn't include regulations of special events.
"I think the city needs to realize that not all Charleston's events need to be held on the peninsula," Lorraine Perry, a resident of Society Street, said after the meeting.
After the panel's Q&A session, attendees were encouraged to post notes with issues and solutions to several idea boards set up around the boardroom. Of the five topic boards in the room, the traffic and transportation board was the most decorated with suggestions.
After the meeting, Keane said most feedback he received centered on the need for resident-only parking places around South of Broad, where tourists' vehicles and horse-drawn carriages often crowd the streets.
Although not every public concern or question was met with solutions Monday night, Keane said the tourism advisory committee would use the attendees' comment cards and idea boards as they work towards an updated tourism strategy throughout the year.
Mayor Joe Riley appointed 24 tourism professionals, historic preservation advocates and neighborhood representatives to the advisory committee to critically examine and revise the city's Tourism Management Plan, which hasn't been updated since 1998.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail
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