Development plans near Angel Oak to stand

The developer of 35 acres around Angel Oak will not have to resubmit his planned unit development with updates on how the project has changed.

Charleston City Council declined Tuesday to ask the developer of 35 acres around Angel Oak to resubmit his planned unit development with updates on how the project has changed.

City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, who has opposed the plan from the start, asked her colleagues for such a step because of how its affordable housing, traffic circulation, wetlands and open space have changed.

But Tim Keane, director of the city's Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said those changes are consistent with the planned unit development that City Council approved in 2008.

Keane said the changes largely stem from the review by the city's Design Review Board as well as other permitting agencies.

Council members didn't hear any public comments on Wilson's request, which never came up for a vote.

Wilson said after the meeting that she didn't make a motion or push for a vote because she sensed it would have failed. Only council members Mike Seekings and Aubry Alexander asked questions indicating some support for Wilson's argument.

Mayor Joe Riley urged council members not to revisit the planned unit development because the developer has invested money based on that zoning. If the city were to make changes, then its taxpayers could be on the hook for any loss in the property's value.

Riley said the project became controversial when it was changed to include affordable workforce housing.

He praised the project for its mixed use. "We talk about smart growth," he said. "You can talk about it, and then you can do it."

Keane said the city's staff is monitoring the plan and offered to brief council once its first phase has received final approval from the city.

Developer Robert DeMoura said Monday he still complies with the zoning. His plans include two phases that would build up to 548 residences and new retail in woods just south of Maybank Highway and west of Bohicket Road.

Wilson pointed to two other planned unit developments (PUDs) that recently came back before City Council for amendments. "This is a completely different PUD than what City Council approved in 2008," she added.

Keane said each PUD is different --and has different degrees of specificity.

While DeMoura won't have to submit changes to his zoning, his project is still tied up because of a lawsuit filed by the Coastal Conservation League and a citizen's group over the site's wetlands.

He has said the lawsuit and other opposition has caused the development company to exhaust most of its working capital and has not been able to make a payment on its $8.4 million loan in a year, according to the deposition.

If the current development company can't sell off the first phase for $3 million by Dec. 31, then it will face foreclosure.