When Charleston's Board of Zoning Appeals meets this week, it'll be like deja-vu all over again, as the late Yogi Berra once said.
The issue involves a lawsuit over a new hotel planned for the City Market area combined with an ill-timed technology glitch. The result is that the board will have to debate whether to approve a project it previously approved when it gathers Tuesday.
"It is an unusual situation," city attorney Chip McQueeney said.
The problem began when the system that records the board meetings malfunctioned while members were discussing the disputed hotel project, rendering an incomplete transcript.
Since those talks are considered crucial evidence in the lawsuit, the board must re-enact that part of the July 17 meeting, according to an order by Circuit Court Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr.
The 50-room hotel would be located at North Market and East Bay streets and include the former Wild Wing Cafe restaurant, a parking lot and the site of the former Molly Darcy's pub. The board said it was satisfied the project would not increase traffic in nearby residential neighborhoods.
The owner of an adjacent property disagreed and sued, alleging the noise and congestion from the hotel would also devalue 241-243 East Bay, which has been up for sale.
The complaint was filed by 241-243 E. Bay Holdings LLC against the zoning board and Pearce Development, formerly Apex Properties.
The legal wrangling hasn't slowed work on the hotel. The Molly Darcy’s building has been demolished since the case was filed in August, with only the fence remaining. Workers have been busy inside the old Wild Wing space. Project managers met with the city's Technical Review Committee last week to go over the plans.
In a separate case, 241-243 E. Bay Holdings sued over a different hotel the board approved, with basically the same arguments. It was dismissed.
By car, by train
It's a South Carolina version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," sans the flying machines.
The S.C. Department of Commerce-run Palmetto Railways hopes to buy the land it needs to link the Volvo Cars manufacturing campus with a CSX rail line, even as it waits for permits for the new tracks.
Commerce will ask the state Joint Bond Review Committee on Tuesday to approve spending $5.5 million to acquire the necessary right-of-way, which stretch nearly 23 miles through 45 parcels.
Palmetto Railways is looking to acquire a 100-foot-wide swath along the corridor at fair market value, either through negotiated sales or condemnation, according to documents submitted to the committee.
If approved, the plan would move on to the S.C. Fiscal Accountability Authority for final approval.
The acquisitions would affect 21 property owners, with much of the land belonging to power provider Santee Cooper. The rail line would connect to a CSX line at the state-owned utility's Cross Generating Station. Palmetto Railways said it will use money from surplus property sales to pay for the land.
The state-built rail link is among $200 million worth of incentives South Carolina promised Volvo in 2015 to get the Swedish company to build its $1.1 billion manufacturing site in Berkeley County. It will allow trains to move cars from the automaker's site at the Camp Hall Industrial Campus near Ridgeville to inland distribution centers.
Volvo estimates 70 percent of the cars that will be built for U.S. sales will move to dealers via the rail link, with the rest transported by trucks.
Palmetto Railways is waiting on permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Surface Transportation Board to begin construction.
This week's request would let state officials get a jump on the project while those permits are processed. Palmetto Railways also has applied for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant that would pay for up to 50 percent of the rail link's costs, which have not been announced.
Under terms of the state's incentives contract with Volvo, the rail line is supposed to be operating within one year after vehicle manufacturing begins. The Berkeley County plant is scheduled to begin production of a newly remodeled S60 sedan next summer. Palmetto Railways has said it hopes to have the right-of-way rail acquisitions completed a year from now.
Volvo is the anchor tenant at the roughly 6,800-acre Camp Hall site, and its manufacturing campus will employ nearly 4,000 workers by 2023, according to projections.
At full production, the automaker plans to build 150,000 cars per year. In addition to the S60, Volvo said it will start building its popular XC90 SUV in South Carolina by 2021.
The bathrooms at a local brewery had been in the running for the title of America’s best place to go. That dream’s now down the toilet.
Cintas Corp., a huge provider of corporate uniforms and cleaning services, organized the contest for the 16th year, saying it helps convey “a critical message that restroom hygiene impacts the success of a business.”
The company solicited nominations to come up with its 10 finalists, a list it said was based on “cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements.” The group vying for the "America’s Best Restroom" crown included Charleston's own Palmetto Brewery, where the urinals in the men's facilities are fashioned out of kegs.
When the votes were tallied, the Huger Street craft-beer maker didn't come out as No. 1. The OdySea Aquarium bowled over the rest of the field. The Scottsdale, Ariz., attraction will receive “the royal restroom treatment,” according to Cintas, including $2,500 in facility services or restroom cleaning.
The Cincinnati-based company didn’t break out other results, such as the No. 2 vote-getter, or the rest of the lineup.
The State Ports Authority is preparing to unload more of its excess real estate.
The maritime agency's board is expected Monday to review an offer for a pair of properties it owns at 838 Morrison Drive, at the entrance to its Columbus Street Terminal on the Charleston peninsula.
The SPA put them on the block earlier this year. Bids were due Sept. 26, along with a $50,000 refundable deposit for each property. They’re being sold “as is.”
One parcel, described in SPA marketing materials as “the wooded lot,” has 3 acres at the northeast corner of Morrison Drive and Johnson Street. The second, known as “the gravel lot,” has 4.2 acres and an 87,419-square-foot building that once served as the central receiving and procurement office for the neighboring port terminal.
Potential buyers were allowed to bid on one or both properties, which are near the city’s blossoming technology cluster known as NoMo. The SPA is selling them to raise cash and consolidate all of its offices at a new headquarters building under construction near the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.
“It’s a big philosophical point for me — once we’ve decided we don’t need to operate real estate that we own, we need to sell it,” ports CEO Jim Newsome said when the offering was announced in July. “We’re very intentional about not owning real estate that we don’t operate."
Earlier this year, the authority sold its longtime Concord Street headquarters next to Waterfront Park to hotel developer Lowe Enterprises for $38 million. The SPA is leasing back the space,and it plans to make the move to East Cooper by the end of 2018.