Charleston City Council on Tuesday will vote on whether to change its zoning rules so that it takes fewer council members to override a recommendation made by the city’s Planning Commission.
Councilman Keith Waring, who proposed the change, said currently 10 of the 13 council members — at least 75 percent — must vote to override decisions of the five-member commission. And, he said, they appoint commission members.
If the proposed change passes Tuesday, it would take only eight votes, or 60 percent, to override a Planning Commission decision.
Meanwhile, it takes only a simple majority to change the rule, he said, and some downtown residents have concerns.
Jay Williams, from the Charles Towne Neighborhood Association, who has been involved in the controversial Sergeant Jasper redevelopment, called the move a proposed overreach that would weaken the commission by making it easier to overturn its decisions.
“This ordinance would change our system of planning from a thoughtful, independent, proven and citizen-involved process into an old-style political process,” he said.
Waring said he didn’t propose the change in reaction to the Sergeant Jasper or any particular decision, and he noted it takes only a two-thirds vote for Congress to override the president or the General Assembly to override the governor.
Harleston Village resident Susan Lyons also is wary.
“Public participation at commission meetings and the expertise of commission members should matter more, not less,” she said. “The chaos of the Jasper project, it seems to me, is a case in point.”
And Winslow Hastie of the Historic Charleston Foundation said he is “very concerned” about the change, which he thinks stems from a recent incident for a proposed hotel at Spring and King streets.
“From a policy directive, it’s not a good direction to go in, we don’t think,” he said of the rule change. “We just think of having that check and balance at City Council is a good thing. I worry it’s a sign of more to come in this direction.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.