Neighbors’ concerns addressed in new plan

A group of developers has modified plans for an industrial development on the Ashley River, next door to an apartment building, a nursing home and a mental health facility whose operators were opposed to earlier plans.

The property involved is the former site of Baker Hospital, which was most recently home to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce until 2010 but has since been demolished. Before the real estate market tanked in 2008 there was a plan to build offices, hotels, residences, retail space and recreational areas there.

In 2013 a group that wants to buy the land asked North Charleston to rezone the properties for light- and heavy-industrial use, prompting objections by the neighboring residential facilities, and a Union Heights neighborhood group. The property is an environmental cleanup site, mostly because of pollution from long-ago fertilizer production, and the development property was remediated to a level suitable for some commercial uses, but not for residences.

In response to the opposition, the request for “heavy industrial” zoning for part of the area has now been dropped, and in an uncommon move, the developers have proposed attaching restrictive covenants to the land to address the concerns of neighboring businesses. For example, the covenants would prohibit the site from being used for a processing center for recycling.

“We think we’ve modified this (plan) so that we can do very attractive offices and showrooms,” said Robert Clement of CC&T Real Estate, a consultant to the group buying and developing the site. The group consists of MeadWestvaco, Branch Properties and Pope and Land.

He described the area around Baker Hospital Boulevard as a neighborhood with 750 residents and employees, and said the area would be treated as such. New plans call for landscaped streets and buffer areas between the existing and planned Baker Business Campus development, beyond what city rules would require.

“They did not want heavy industrial,” said Stuart Coleman of CC&T. “We heard that loud and clear.”

North Charleston City Council is expected to take up the zoning issue in March. At a city Planning Commission meeting Jan. 13, Coleman said the companies are working on covenants and restrictions that would need approval from Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health, Riverside Health & Rehabilitation, and the Osprey Place apartments.

“We are committed to making this work for the community, and I believe they are as well,” said Shari Baker, CEO of Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health.

Gerad Mikell, chairman of the Charleston Community Research to Action Board, which investigates environmental concerns in the Union Heights area, said the group’s previous objections have also been addressed.

“Based on the commitments they have made, we’re satisfied,” Mikell told the Planning Commission.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552