Airport officials have concerns about potential veterans housing units in North Charleston

A developer requested a few months ago that property at 5899 Dorchester Road be annexed into North Charleston city limits and rezoned so that he could better develop one- and two-bedroom housing units that he said would be geared toward veterans and others living on low incomes.

A developer wants to build housing units in North Charleston for veterans, but airport authorities say the site sits too close to their runways.

George Christodal, an Army veteran, requested a few months ago that property at 5899 Dorchester Road be annexed into North Charleston city limits and rezoned so he could better develop one- and two-bedroom housing units that he said would be geared toward veterans and others living on low incomes.

5899 Dorchester Road

But the property is located 6,000 feet from a runway, and the city's Planning Commission voted to deny the request after airport officials raised concerns.

Arnold Goodstein, general counsel for the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said he didn't know the property was already zoned multi-family in the county.

While there are residences in the general area, this new one would raise more concern because it's located in the direct line of flight, he said.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration helps fund the airport and has certain guidelines, such as boundary restrictions, that contribute to the amount of funding available for the airport. 

Goodstein said the authority has asked the FAA to weigh in on the matter.

"I'm going to do what the FAA tells us to do," he said. "They discourage us from having people that close. It’s of concern."

Development encroaching on the runways also has been a concern for supporters of the Charleston Air Force Base. They fear too much development would lessen the base's odds at surviving future rounds of base closures.

In the '90s, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments compiled a land-use study that led to Charleston and Hanahan changing their zoning to be compatible. North Charleston took the study under advisement only, and moved forward with plans to construct Centre Pointe, now home to the Tanger Outlets. Officials said, at the time, that developers placed most of the buildings outside the marked accident zones.

Goodstein said officials are also concerned the development would encroach on the airport to a degree that might draw attention from military leaders.

“That's one of the things we worry about," Goodstein said.

The FAA hasn't yet received an application to conduct an aeronautical study for a proposed property, said FAA Spokesperson Jim Peters.

Sponsors of projects that may affect navigable airspace are required to file notices with the FAA. The FAA then determines whether the project is a danger to aviation.

"If we determine that the project is a hazard, we work with the sponsor to mitigate the hazard," Peters said.

Kevin High, a partner in property owner Highway LLC, said the project is needed in a region where luxury apartments continue to rise and many people struggle to find affordable places to live. He said the housing, called Beacon Rock, will be geared toward veterans, but it won't be exclusive to them.

“It’s for the community," he said. "These are not going to be luxury, high-end places that everybody is building downtown. Everybody is talking about affordable housing. We feel like we are a part of the solution.”

Although the number of homeless veterans slightly increased across the country in recent years, it dropped across South Carolina. There were more than 40,000 homeless veterans across the nation in 2017 — an uptick from 39,400 in 2016, according to estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In South Carolina, the number of homeless veterans decreased from 738 in 2016 to 480 in 2017, according to HUD.

In North Charleston, efforts have been made to address the issue. 

In 2017, the former Catalina Inn on Rivers Avenue was transformed into 74 studio apartments called Patriot Villas. Property owners said they redid the motel for vets to give back to the men and women who served our country.

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Rickey Dennis covers North Charleston and faith & values for the Post and Courier.

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