Plan for Upper Peninsula growth (copy)

A proposed rule change in Charleston would keep housing out of industrial zones. Many properties with industrial zoning are on the Upper Peninsula.  Wade Spees/File

Weeks after the controversial Oakville subdivision was approved in an industrial zone on Johns Island, Charleston is looking at changing the rules to keep housing out of those districts in the future.

City Council on Tuesday will consider the change that bans housing, schools, nursing and "personal care" facilities in areas zoned for light and heavy industrial uses.

While the city says the move is not in response to Oakville and wouldn't affect its plans, the change would almost certainly keep something like Oakville from happening again. 

Industrial zones are commercial in nature, but they're generally meant for uses such as tattoo parlors, warehouses and dry-cleaning facilities that the city doesn't want to include in all general business areas.

Currently, it also allows 19.4 housing units per acre, one of the densest residential classifications in the city's zoning code.

"Since residential is really booming in our economy in our region right now, preserving these sites for light industrial helps us keep a balanced city — a city that has a range of things, not just residential, not just hotels," said Christopher Morgan, director of the city's planning department.

He said at least 100 properties would be affected by the change. Most of the industrial districts are on the Upper Peninsula along King and Meeting streets, the Cainhoy peninsula and some areas of West Ashley along Dupont and Bees Ferry roads. 

The Oakville plan calls for 205 single-family homes on about 200 acres along the Stono River next to the Charleston Executive Airport. If it had been zoned for a rural residential community, as nearby properties are zoned, its density would have been about four units per acre, but more units will be allowed because Oakville was zoned light industrial decades ago.

Many nearby residents tried to block the development. They argued repeatedly in public hearings that its elevation was too low to support the density and that it didn't have its own road to give future residents a way in and out of the neighborhood from River Road.

The plan met the basic requirements for a subdivision development, so the Planning Commission approved it on a conceptual level on April 18. The developer still has to go through a permitting process for its design, stormwater system and other technical details.

Morgan said the planning department will review residential densities allowed in other zoning codes and could recommend other changes.

Jason Crowley, of the Coastal Conservation League, said the city's step seems to be a positive one. He just wishes it was taken sooner.

"It's a little unfortunate that this is taking place after a recent approval of 200-plus units in a light industrial zone," he said. 

City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 80 Broad St. The meeting can be viewed live online on the city of Charleston's YouTube channel

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.