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Charleston City Council votes to remove properties from hotel zone, halt development in flood-prone West Ashley

Bennett Hotel

Bennett Hospitality's latest Charleston hotel project is among many new hotels rising in Charleston. Leroy Burnell/Staff

Charleston City Council on Tuesday moved ahead with two major proposals aimed at limiting new development.

After more than an hour of debate, council approved removing 86 properties from the city's accommodations overlay zone, the only portion of the city's peninsula where hotels can be built.

The measure would make it more difficult for those properties – which included offices, housing, churches and city-owned structures – to apply for permission to be redeveloped as a hotel in the future.

It marked the third time the city’s planning department had tried to curb hotel growth since Mayor John Tecklenburg took office last year - and the first to taste some success.

Several council members raised concerns about whether those property owners had been given enough notice of the plan. City Planner Jacob Lindsey said they were notified by mail on Feb. 22, as required by state law.

“Putting it out on a Wednesday and here we are on Tuesday making a determination. I think the level of integrity that the city does business is better than that,” Councilman Keith Waring said.

However, a majority of council members had come around to approving the plan after Lindsey and Tecklenburg reaffirmed the city’s commitment to hold public hearings on the issue before it returns to council for a final vote in a month or two.

Tecklenburg said affected property owners can request to stay in the accommodations district during those discussions.

Later, with less discussion, City Council approved a nine-month moratorium on  new developments in the part of the Church Creek drainage basin with the most severe drainage issues while an engineer studies the flood-prone section of West Ashley. The area represents approximately one-fifth of the whole basin, generally including property closest to Church Creek.

Earlier, residents whose homes routinely flood begged City Council to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Deborah Brown, of Sherwood Forest, said her yard has flooded with about 17 inches during major storms such as Hurricane Matthew last year. She brought a poster board and a folder of photos to prove it.

“We are being forced to buy flood insurance,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to buy flood insurance. We don’t live near a river.”

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

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