Johns Is. rezone rejected

A plan to rezone 462 acres on rural Johns Island for homes, warehouses, offices and assisted-living sites was rejected by Charleston’s Planning Commission after angry residents said it was too much for the area and would create even more of a burden on roads and infrastructure.

“It’s not one house per acre we’re talking here,” Rich Thomas of the Concerned Citizens of the Sea Islands told the commission at Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re talking massive development.”

Thomas added, “It’s not appropriate for Johns Island.”

A group of area landowners calling themselves the Wooddale Partnership LLC was seeking an upgrade from the city’s lightest zoning category to one that would allow at least 462 home sites plus other improvements.

The property is located near the intersections of Plow Ground and River roads, close to the island’s executive airport.

One of the property owners is Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl, who was not at the meeting.

For 45 minutes Wednesday, about a dozen area residents spoke up to say the project was not wanted or needed, and would bring dense urban-type zoning into the island’s tree-lined interior.

“The infrastructure can’t handle what we have now, so why add to it?” one man told the commission.

Adding 1,000 cars a day isn’t appropriate for “an oak-lined, two-lane county road,” said River Road resident Steve Green.

Commission Chairman Frank McCann agreed the project was too big and provided too dense a layout and mix of businesses for Johns Island to absorb in one spot.

It also ran counter to crossing the city’s Urban Growth Boundary, he said.

“I think the city of Charleston is the guardian at the gate,” he said. “I think we have to be strict. When the city crossed into Johns Island we crossed with promises, and I think we have to keep them.”

The vote against allowing the change of zoning was unanimous, 6-0.

Gary Collins of Seamon, Whitesides & Associates, who represented the landowner applicants, said he did not know what the next move would be on their part.

The land already has a controversial history dating back years. In 2006, the property owners filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Charleston City Council’s abrupt downgrading of the site’s zoning after a developer had publicly discussed building up to 800 homes.

The property owners lost the early rounds in court but appealed, a lawyer said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.