Zoning approved for Sergeant Jasper site

Charleston City Council voted in favor of a zoning change that will allow more residential development on the Sergeant Jasper site. File/Leroy Burnell/Staff

Charleston City Council overrode the city’s Planning Commission Tuesday and gave final approval to a zoning change that will allow 324 residential units to be built on the Sergeant Jasper apartments site.

The commission last week voted against the change, but council was able to override that decision with a 10-3 vote in favor of a new overlay zone for the property that would allow more residential use there. The ordinance was amended to state that if developers build more than 78 housing units per acre, those units must be affordable. That means the Sergeant Jasper site will be required to have 24 units of affordable housing.

Council members Mike Seekings, Peter Shahid and Rodney Williams were opposed.

Overriding the commission requires a vote of at least 75 percent of council members.

The 221-apartment Sergeant Jasper is owned by The Beach Company, which wants to tear down the 14-story building near Colonial Lake and redevelop the property. The site’s “limited business” zoning would have restricted a new development to 80 residences.

City Council decades ago took a special vote to allow the current apartment building to be built there. But that density wouldn’t have been allowed if a new building were constructed.

The new overlay zone, which applies to several other properties at the city’s gateways, doesn’t change the size of the building the Beach Company is allowed to build on the Sergeant Jasper site. But it changes the use of the property to primarily residential instead of largely commercial.

Dan Doyle, the Beach Company’s vice president of development, said the company has had about 100 meetings with neighbors over the past four years, and residents consistently said they want more residential development there.

City officials have said they proposed the change to encourage more residential instead of commercial development at the city’s gateways.

The move to approve the overlay zone is not part of a legal settlement that the city and the Beach Co., have agreed upon.

Under the legal settlement, the city will allow the Beach Co. to build a new building about as tall as the current Sergeant Jasper. The company also has agreed to create a park at least three-quarters of an acre on St. Mary’s Field, which is west of Barre Street.

Many nearby residents and preservation groups strongly oppose the Beach Company’s plan because they think it’s too dense, and that it will bring a lot more traffic to a residential, flood-prone neighborhood.

Kristopher King, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, said he thinks the zoning change is tied to the city’s legal settlement with the Beach Company, even though the city says it’s not. And he also thinks it represents “spot zoning,” which means it was intended for a particular property and is not legal.

The allowed square footage and height in the ordinance line up with those of the Beach Company’s latest plan for developing the Sergeant Jasper site, he said.

“This clearly does not have any broader application,” said King. “The community is watching.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.