A weeklong series of public workshops for the planned 1,253-acre Long Savannah development culminated Thursday when participants saw draft designs that they helped conceptualize.
However, Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl and Partners, the Florida-based design firm that led the workshops, warned before unveiling the drafts that "questions will remain at the end of this and much work will need to be done still."
Dover showed images with country-like atmospheres on Long Savannah's far side that would shift to more town-oriented spaces as you move east.
There could be a village square, houses and apartment structures of various sizes, corner stores, possibly two or more schools, a web of walkable streets that connect to at least two main roads, and lots of wetlands that "are draped across the property like curtains."
The drafts garnered periodic head nods by listeners in the crowd, though some residents from nearby neighborhoods said that they still had concerns after the presentation.
Tom Morinelli, a resident of Canterbury Woods, said he liked the architecture and overall design, but he wished the planners would have discussed more about how the additional traffic would impact the surrounding neighborhoods. They also didn't talk about public transportation options, he said.
Rick Hall, one of the workshop consultants, said traffic anxieties should be alleviated because Long Savannah could have more narrow roads in specific areas that would slow down traffic and ensure pedestrians feel safe.
He also said they hope the residents could go grocery shopping, dine out and work within the community and have little need to travel outside the neighborhood.
Morinelli wasn't convinced. "They would still come downtown," he said. "They would still go to the movies. They would still go to the mall. I don't care what they say."
Jill Lundgrin, a resident of Hickory Hill Plantation, said she worried the current drafts are too comparable to downtown Charleston, with a lot of traffic and too many people. She said she hopes the developers will make the neighborhood as walkable and family-friendly as possible.
"At some point, if I have to move out of my home, wouldn't it be great to move here?" Lundgrin said.
The proposed development is located near the Village Green, Grand Oaks Plantation, Shadowmoss and Hunt Club neighborhoods.
The workshops were geared toward letting the public have a say-so in what happens with the chunk of land in West Ashley where more than 3,000 homes could be added to the city.
Charleston City Council is poised to annex the proposed development and extend the urban growth boundary line in order to accommodate the plan. Council is not expected to take up the annexation until after the city's Planning Commission reviews the plans in March.
If Charleston follows through on plans to annex and rezone the Long Savannah land, the developers have pledged to make significant contributions toward traffic improvements and new school and civic buildings. Approval of the development also is the key to completing the public purchases of a 1,568-acre county park and a 232-acre Charleston city park, which would come out of the 3,053 acres the developers now have an option to buy.
Charleston officials say the regional infrastructure improvements that the developers have agreed to provide, if their plans are approved, are worth about $15 million, which includes:
--$8 million for an extension of the Glenn McConnell Parkway, to serve Long Savannah and existing subdivisions like Village Green.
--$3 million for improvements to Bear Swamp Road, which would remain a two-lane road, and would serve as the main southern entrance to Long Savannah.
--$1.36 million, approximately, toward the funding of a new school site in the development.
--$1 million toward the cost of improving the intersection of Magwood Road and Glenn McConnell Parkway.
--$1 million toward the completion of West Ashley Circle, a village center at Bees Ferry Road and Glenn McConnell Parkway.
--Donated land for a new police, fire and emergency services facility.
The developers also have agreed to pay $1 million to the Red Top Improvement Association over a four-year period starting when the first building permits are issued, as part of a separate deal to end that community's opposition to the development.