Dorchester County voters on Tuesday spoke loudly in favor of improving residents’ quality of life by approving bond issues for much-needed parks and libraries in the rapidly growing county.
Charleston also got some good news on that front Wednesday when it was announced that the city would receive an $18.1 million federal grant to help fund a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Ashley River. We have advocated for the bridge project for years, agreeing with supporters that the span would provide a safe path for bicyclists and pedestrians between West Ashley and downtown.
The 0.4-mile-long standalone bridge would be linked to the 10.5-mile West Ashley Greenway and 2.5-mile West Ashley Bikeway. The bridge is a first step in the area’s broader goal of creating safe bike and pedestrian routes across other points along the Ashley River, such as the North Bridge and the James Island connector, and across the Wappoo Cut, according to Robert Behre of The Post and Courier.
More quality-of-life improvements are needed across the entire tri-county area, which has enjoyed many years of rapid growth. That expansion has injected great prosperity into the area and fundamentally transformed the region. But the pace of development — in some cases coupled with a lack of vision — has outstripped our ability to deal with the less-desirable consequences, including traffic congestion and skyrocketing housing prices.
That’s why it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to preserve green space and provide more amenities for residents. It helps foster a healthier balance between development and quality of life.
The Dorchester County referendums initially were posed to voters as a single question in 2016, but after that combined referendum failed a court test this year, supporters wisely decided to go back to voters with two separate questions. Both passed Tuesday by roughly 2-to-1 margins.
The projects will cost $68 million — $38 million for parks and $30 million for libraries — and will cost the owner of a $200,000 primary residence about $38 per year beginning in 2020. The cost is about 50% more for rental and business properties, according to reporter Conner Mitchell.
The bond issues will be used to build new libraries in Summerville, North Charleston and Ridgeville, and two new parks in Summerville and one in St. George. There also are plans to connect some of the county’s parks with a trail for biking or walking.
Dorchester County residents traditionally are among the most tax-averse people in the area, so it’s notable that voters were so enthusiastic about these amenities.
Another benefit is that the parks vote takes away 85 acres along the Ashley River that was already set up for building as many as 400 houses and 900 apartments. That, in turn, would have translated into more traffic, which has worsened with the influx of new residents and a road system that hasn’t kept up in the county of 160,000 people.
The parks and libraries projects address important needs, as does the bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Voters and elected officials should continue to find ways to balance our tremendous economic success with a better quality of life for residents.