Rural vs. urban is a consistently hot topic for Charleston County as it faces enormous pressures from developers who recognize the area's growing population and see green. Money, that is.
But for all the extra tax dollars that come with new development come troubling problems like the loss of green space, insufficient infrastructure and inadequate modes of transportation.
Fortunately, people have a way to help shape their community - where it should grow and where it should be left alone. Charleston County is reviewing its Comprehensive Plan and wants help from the public.
This is a community, after all, that pulled together and raised millions of dollars to keep property around that rural icon, the Angel Oak, from being densely developed.
The Comprehensive Plan guides the county's growth and development policies - specifically setting urban growth boundaries beyond which things must stay rural.
It's something every resident could benefit from understanding. Who better to help shape the Comprehensive Plan than the people who stand to experience its direct and dramatic impact?
That's why the county is eager to hear their thoughts. It has collected comments for several weeks and is holding a public information session to gather more input tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Wando High School media room.
The public is encouraged to attend and see what changes Charleston County is considering - and to let their opinions be known. One hundred forty have already done so. Those who are unable to attend can find information on the Charleston County website, and are invited to make comments online through the month of July.
Since the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan was last updated in 2008, it has successfully kept rural areas rural and channeled growth to urban areas. Fortunately, the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan would shift 1,249 acres of unincorporated properties from the urban side of the line to the rural side.
That gives county planners the backing they need to stand down developers who would happily denude tracts of land for what becomes urban sprawl.
Dorchester and Berkeley counties also have comprehensive plans, as do the city of Charleston and Mount Pleasant.
You don't have to live near the county's urban growth boundaries to need its protection. Without it, the rural roads you travel could be lined with shopping centers and subdivisions.
Or communities like Sol Legare on James Island and Snowden east of the Cooper could lose their historic cultural identities.
Dan Pennick, the county's planning director, said some of the topics raised by the public have been the need for more affordable housing, encouraging small service businesses in rural areas and providing more transportation options.
His staff will compile comments, and the information will be used to suggest tweaks to the plan, which requires approval by the County Planning Commission and, ultimately, County Council.
The Charleston County Comprehensive Plan has helped guard some of the area's most beautiful natural assets. It can continue to do so, and do it even better, with help from the public.
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