Angel Oak Area; Panel critical of development plans

The Angel Oak on Johns Island is said to be about 500 years old.

Revised plans for a mixed-use development near the Angel Oak received mostly negative reviews Thursday from a city architectural panel.

Tim Keane, representing the proposed Angel Oak Village on a 42-acre tract at Main Road and Maybank Highway on Johns Island, showed the Commercial Corridor Review Board new preliminary plans for the project. Significant changes have been made since they were shown to the board last month, he said.

Road design changes keep all construction at least 500 feet from the tree, which is on city-owned property and is believed to be about 500 years old. Keane said planners put commercial buildings closer to highways and designed a system of walking and bike trails leading to Angel Oak Park.

They scaled back the sizes of buildings and made their designs more diverse, he said, and the development can provide parking for visitors to Angel Oak Park, augmenting the city's efforts to protect the tree.

College of Charleston biologist Phil Dustan said the development will generate pollution and stormwater runoff that will endanger the tree. The project should be halved, at least, he said.

"This is a fluke. It's a magical tree,"

Dustan said.

Board member Patrick Pernell was highly critical. "The plan has a long way to go," he said, saying the scale and mass of buildings is still too much. He likened plans "to the 1970s."

"There is no suspense, no sense of destination and I don't feel any sense of space. Behind the buildings is a sea of asphalt," Pernell said.

Samantha Siegel of Johns Island questioned whether the development could be the pedestrian destination Keane envisions. Traffic on Maybank Highway moves too fast for area pedestrians to navigate, she said.

City Parks Department Deputy Director Matt Compton said the project does not endanger the tree. "We fully support this project moving forward," he said. The city's principal planner, Bill Turner, said the development now fits better with Johns Island and "is headed in a more positive direction."

Keane said after the meeting that the input helped and he will gather more at an April 15 forum on Johns Island, then come back with new ideas.