Folly apartment project opponents fear more traffic congestion

A developer has withdrawn plans for a 300-unit apartment complex at Folly and South Grimball roads that opponents worried would create more traffic jams on Folly Road. File/Staff

A formal application for a 300-apartment development called The Lively will be submitted Friday to Charleston County, but many on James Island aren’t waiting to voice their concerns.

Residents near the project site filled a gym at James Island Elementary School on Tuesday to speak out.

The event was intended as a project presentation, but from the beginning, islanders interrupted McFaddin Blanding, president of Orange Capital Advisors, to get him to talk about their issues.

Many of the more than 200 residents in attendance said Folly Road is already too burdened with traffic to accommodate hundreds more cars from The Lively.

The meeting evolved into a forum where people discussed their feelings about the future of the sparsely developed section of Folly Road.

The developer plans three more community meetings on The Lively, including a May 12 session at James Island Elementary.

“I think there were some good ideas that came out of last night, and we’re going to make some edits to the (project plan) when we submit,” Blanding said Wednesday.

The Lively would be built on 10 acres at Folly and South Grimball roads. Its apartment buildings would be up to 55 feet tall, and the project would include market space for local vendors and artist studios.

The county’s Planning Department staff will vet the application before it goes to the Planning Commission, which in turn will make a recommendation to County Council. The process typically takes months before a final decision.

The developer’s upcoming community meetings will provide project information related to traffic, stormwater management and architecture, according to the project website.

On Tuesday, one man angrily pointed out that the community for years has been unable to get a stoplight at South Grimball and Folly roads, which he described as a dangerous intersection. Officials have said a traffic light will be installed there in the coming months.

A resident asked Blanding if the meeting would make any difference in how The Lively project proceeds. “It’s not a done deal,” Blanding replied. “This is simply a proposed project.” He added that he has not bought the site.

County Councilman Joe Qualey said The Lively is generating the same sort of opposition as high-density growth on Maybank Highway near Folly. James Island Town Councilman Garrett Milliken worried that approval of The Lively would set a precedent for even more apartment complexes on Folly.

“We don’t want to look like Myrtle Beach,” he said.

Project opponents noted that a large apartment complex only recently opened just across Folly from The Lively site.

James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey told the audience to make their feelings about The Lively known to County Council. “The density is way too much,” he said.

The Lively would have two- and three-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $1,300 to $2,300 per month. Some 48 of the apartments would be “affordable housing” priced between $800 and $1,200 including utilities, Blanding said.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at (843) 937-5711.