Cruise battle takes a break

Balmoral, a cruise ship with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, is docked for a visit in Charleston on Sept. 30.

Attorneys will have to wait until next year to argue about a permit for a contentious $35 million passenger cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

The state Court of Appeals had said it would hear the case the week of Dec. 7. But a court official said Monday that scheduling conflicts have now delayed arguments until February at the earliest.

The State Ports Authority wants to build a new cruise terminal by renovating a waterfront warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control granted a permit almost three years ago to allow additional pilings to be placed beneath the structure to allow construction.

An administrative law judge earlier upheld the permit saying that preservation, conservation and neighborhood groups opposed to the terminal lacked standing to appeal. Those groups are appealing, saying the terminal will hurt property values and the quality of life and increase pollution.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers continues reviewing hundreds of comments it has received on the SPA’s request for a new federal permit.

A federal judge tossed out an initial permit saying regulators needed to look at not only the impact of the pilings on the environment, but the larger impact of the terminal on historic Charleston. The Army Corps will determine if a more extensive environmental impact statement on the cruise terminal should be compiled.

The developments in the cruise controversy come as Charleston elects a new mayor.

Mayor Joe Riley, a strong advocate of the new terminal, retires at the end of the year after serving 40 years in office — longer than anyone in the city’s 345-year history.

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Businessman John Tecklenburg and lawyer and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis meet Nov. 17 in the runoff in the nonpartisan mayoral election.

Stavrinakis helped get a provision in last year’s state budget that earmarked $5 million for installing shore electrical power at the terminal so cruise liners are not idling at the dock burning fuel.

Tecklenburg also favors shore power as well as an enforceable limit on the number of cruise ships and a per-head tax on cruise passengers to help the city deal with the costs from the cruise industry.