Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg won't have to force the sale of a prominent West Ashley property after all.
Wintergreen Capital, a Charlotte-based development firm, agreed to sell its 2½-acre site at Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Sumar Street to the city for $3 million.
Charleston City Council unanimously approved the purchase on Tuesday without much discussion, despite the fact that five council members at the previous meeting on April 25 voted against the mayor's plan to declare eminent domain if it was necessary to acquire the property.
But while the debate over whether the city should take the property might have been put to rest, there's still the question of how it will be used.
Tecklenburg originally planned to build a new intersection, a park and potentially a municipal building on the land in a design that he said would improve the appearance of that gateway part of town. He first approached the developer about buying it after the plan to build a gas station there was rejected by the city’s Design Review Board last year.
He then asked for the city's permission to use eminent domain to acquire it last month, which could have ignited a legal fight with the owner if the firm wasn't interested in selling or didn't agree to the city's purchase price.
Some council members, including Mike Seekings and Robert Mitchell, were against using eminent domain to take over the land, and they didn't particularly like the mayor's vision for it.
Seekings said Tuesday that he still didn't like the fact that the city used that threat to buy the property, but he supported it because he thinks there's an opportunity to guide what happens to that area.
"Where we ended up was a fair price to the developer — even though we threatened them to get there — and now we're going to work to see if we use that property appropriately," he said. "It might be putting it back into the private realm, and not just having a little park in the middle of the intersection. But now, we control its destiny."
Mitchell said he didn't want the city to use part of the land for a municipal building.
"I don't think we need another municipal building in West Ashley, so I've got to see what other plan they're going to come up with," he said.
Councilman Peter Shahid, who chairs the West Ashley Revitalization Commission, supported the mayor's proposal to take the property, but he doesn't think it will be turned into a park.
"I don't think a park is going to be the number one, but maybe a public use facility. Folks in my neighborhood want somewhere to gather, to have meetings," he said. "This could really be a great opportunity."