Disagreement over a plan to build a gas station on the edge of a residential neighborhood has created an us-versus-them situation on North Charleston City Council, according to a councilman on the losing side of a recent vote.
Councilman Bobby Jameson said things will never be the same after he was humiliated at a committee meeting Sept. 19, when most council members voted against him on the gas station plan in his district, which he supported.
“(Councilman) Ron Brinson’s the one who messed things up,” Jameson said. “He hasn’t been on council long enough to know the rules of the game.”
The unspoken rule has been that council members defer to the wishes of the council member who represents the district in question. Jameson claims Brinson rallied council members to oppose the gas station plan because Brinson’s relatives live in that neighborhood.
Brinson said Jameson’s remarks were “very unfortunate” and denies working to influence the vote. But he also said that when it comes to changing the city’s land use plan, it’s time to end the practice of voting however a district’s council member wants.
“I think that day has come and gone, if the issue involves the city’s comprehensive plan,” Brinson said. “Not that the plan is etched in stone, but what is it etched in? Melting Jello?”
“Property owners have a right to rely on that plan,” he said.
Jameson’s council district includes Deer Park. where a Sunoco station and convenience store was proposed on University Boulevard at Fernwood Drive. Jameson supported the zoning and land use changes needed by Sunoco, and on North Charleston City Council the district representative’s support has usually been enough to assure approval.
However, Deer Park residents came out against that zoning request at two meetings, where they also opposed another zoning change requested in the neighborhood. Brinson’s sister-in-law, Linda Brinson, was among the Deer Park residents who spoke out against the Sunoco project.
“I think he’s probably upset that my brother and sister-in-law were involved, but I didn’t lobby anyone, and I was kind of surprised by the outcome,” Brinson said.
Jameson lost the zoning vote 6-3, joined only by his sister, Councilwoman Rhonda Jerome, and by Councilwoman Dot Williams.
“It embarrassed me, and it embarrassed me for my city, in front of people who were ready to invest $4 million in my city,” Jameson said Friday.
He said that while the gas station plan needed a zoning change, it was a good plan that addressed traffic and buffers between the property and its neighbors.
“Whatever goes in there later has the potential to be much worse, and that’s why I supported the Sunoco,” said Jameson, who stressed that he had nothing to gain personally. “It would have been a positive for a neighborhood.”
The Sunoco plan and an unrelated proposal to build a parking lot where a home now sits on Dantzler Drive were opposed by neighborhood residents who said the city had promised commercial zoning wouldn’t be allowed past a certain point, on Deer Park’s residential streets.
City Council also recommended rejecting the Dantzler Drive zoning change, at the committee meeting, but both zoning questions won’t be settled until a final City Council vote Thursday.
“We were very satisfied,” said Dantzler Drive resident Joanne Crosby. “We hope and pray they don’t change their minds at the council meeting Thursday.”
Neighborhood Council President Beth Evans also expressed cautious optimism Friday.
“I was happy with last night’s results, but it won’t be over until it’s over,” Evans said. “They can change their votes, so it’s not completely over.”
The City Council Public Safety Committee consists of all members of council, so they essentially make recommendations to themselves, then vote on the same issues again at a later council meeting.
Mayor Keith Summey and Councilman Sam Hart were not at the Sept. 19 committee meeting, but if all council members are present Thursday, the outcome of the Sunoco vote still wouldn’t change unless at least one council member voted differently than at the committee meeting.
“I think it’s still in play, but it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other,” said Jameson.