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Five things you need to know about North Charleston's 10-year plan for managing growth

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Traffic moves along Rivers Avenue in North Charleston on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The area could see major transformation in the coming years. File/Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Every 10 years, North Charleston updates its playbook meant to guide the city's future growth and development.

Dubbed by the city as PRIME North Charleston, the Comprehensive Plan is aimed at helping the city accomplish its vision of ensuring neighborhoods retain their residential feel while accommodating new development.

The plan may sound like government jargon, but it impacts residents' daily lives and is intended to be driven by community input, not politicians.

“This is a plan that is outside the realm of politics," city spokesman Ryan Johnson said. "Regardless of who is in office, this is the framework to follow."

Local officials are urging residents to participate in the process by reviewing the document at five public open houses over the next two weeks.

If you plan to attend, here are some things to know.

1. What is a Comprehensive Plan?

These are documents South Carolina municipalities are mandated by state law to re-examine at least once every five years and update every 10 years, offering a vision for where cities want to see long-term change.

In North Charleston's case, the plan is a 59-page, reader-friendly document that examines nine core areas: population, housing, economic, natural resources, cultural resources, community facilities, transportation, land use and priority investments.

2. Why should I care?

For starters, North Charleston is changing.

Since the plan was last updated, construction began for the 280-acre Leatherman Terminal at the former Navy base in North Charleston, Boeing SC expanded its plant, a second major annexation of land west of the Ashley River increased the city's land area by 2,200 acres and developers have expressed a desire to turn the former Naval Hospital into apartments, which would go at a key intersection along the planned Lowcountry Rapid Transit system.

How the city looks to balance these changes with affordability will be reflected in its 2020 plan.

The plan impacts residents by guiding the decisions of public officials. When the city's Planning Commission members, zoning staff and elected leaders decide, for example, whether to rezone a property from residential to commercial, they first refer to the comprehensive plan for guidance. 

The document outlines specific actions that could make older neighborhoods more clean and safe. For example, the draft of the 2020 plan recommends the city establish a property maintenance inspector position to address housing issues, such as board-ups, tear-downs and blight removal, which the plan says could help to reduce crime. 

3. Who creates the plan?

The planning process includes a variety of perspectives, including insight from North Charleston residents, the city's Planning Commission and Planning and Zoning Department, and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester-Council of Governments.

After receiving public input that informs the plan, the city's Planning and Zoning Department works with COG to write and develop the document. The city also engages nonprofit leaders and agencies in specialized areas, like economic development and education. The primary responsibility of the Planning Commission is to manage the research, development and review of the plan. Toward the end of the process, the commission endorses the final product.

4. How can I participate?

The city's five public open houses in February will enable residents to review the document and voice concerns. All meetings are 5-7 p.m.

Feb 18: North Charleston Transit Center, 4565 Gaynor Ave.

Feb 19: Wescott Park Community Center, 9006 Dorchester Road

Feb 24: Miner Crosby Community Center, 3901 Paramount Drive

Feb 25: Gussie Greene Community Center, 2008 Success St.

Feb 26: North Charleston Athletic Center, 5794 Casper Padgett Way

5. When will it be completed?

After the round of open houses, the document will go before the Planning Commission for a final recommendation on March 9. Afterward, City Council will review it in a first reading and public hearing on April 9. The final reading and adoption date is slated for April 23.

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Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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