The hot potato that is the Sergeant Jasper development is now back in the hands of Charleston City Council.
If members want to be responsive to their constituents and to honor the integrity of the city’s planning process, they should toss the potato back to the Beach Company and ask for a different recipe.
Council is set to vote on the Planning Commission’s recommendation to reject a zoning change for the Sergeant Jasper site.
It is the same change that the council approved by a 12-1 margin last month. But unlike before, members have the advantage of hearing from neighbors and preservationists about their objections to the new zoning.
Also unlike before, they have the advice of a commission whose job is to deal solely with such issues. Commissioners are chosen because of their experience and knowledge in that area.
And as Councilman Mike Seekings notes, Terry Seabrook, a new commissioner supported by City Councilmen Bill Moody and Keith Waring, spoke and voted against the zoning change. Mr. Moody and Mr. Waring have been supportive of accommodating the Sergeant Jasper project.
In a nearly full meeting room, people petitioned the commission to reject the request to rezone. While the city’s rezoning request would apply to several properties, the aim of the change was clearly to accommodate the Beach Company’s proposed development of the Sergeant Jasper site.
Indeed, that is one of the objections people have to the proposed zoning change. It seems to be contract zoning disguised as something broader. And contract zoning is not allowed.
Some disputed the label of the Sergeant Jasper property as a “gateway” to Charleston. Yes, the site is prominent on the way many people enter downtown Charleston from Lockwood Boulevard.
But it is the entrance to a residential neighborhood, not a commercial one like other gateways — unless the Beach Company unwisely insists on pursuing a mostly commercial development.
Certainly there is a good use for the Beach Company’s property — one that will be profitable and still compatible with the neighborhood.
It just hasn’t been presented formally yet.
Charleston City Council should shake off its “Jasper Fatigue” and commit to doing the difficult work of finding that solution.
That starts with rejecting the zoning change.