Some suggest that the Sergeant Jasper application is mired in “confusion, controversy, angst and debate. It shouldn’t be.

The planning and zoning rules are clear. They just need to be followed, and the Planning Commission process to lower the height limit, already in motion, should be allowed to proceed without interference from the BAR.

A recent op-ed suggested that the zoning on the Sergeant Jasper tract is conflicting and inconsistent, and that zoning “does not allow for the very use that must predominate the site, residential.” In fact, limited business zoning on the Jasper tract not only allows — it contemplates — a predominantly residential use. That’s validated by the fact that for 60 years the Sergeant Jasper was predominantly residential. Limited business, as defined in the zoning ordinance, limits the hours of business operations in a residential area, but it doesn’t require that there be any businesses nor does it preclude predominantly residential uses.

The writer suggested the designation of “urban” under the city’s Century V Comprehensive Plan conflicted with properties surrounding the tract. We respectfully disagree that this designation creates a conflict or confusion.

The term “urban” is a zoning designation that can only be understood in context by looking at the other designations in the Century V Plan. “Urban” falls midway between “rural” and “urban core.” “Urban,” the designation for the Sergeant Jasper, is defined as “mixed use, but primarily residential.” To illustrate “urban,” the plan cites as examples Wagener Terrace and Riverland Terrace.

Conversely, “urban core” is the designation for unlimited residential density that also allows intense mixed use and business that applies to the Upper King and Meeting District and WestEdge. “Urban core” is where the proposed Jasper complex would be appropriately constructed.

Most importantly, the op-ed implied that the old 3X zoning designation may be a property right that cannot be “taken away.” Quite the contrary. The Planning Commission just voted to recommend an amendment to lower the height limit to 55 feet. This is a long-deferred change first recommended by the 1974 Preservation Plan. Eventually City Council will have the chance to vote on that amendment to finally eradicate all 3X zoning that’s been called a “relic” and a “dinosaur” by city officials and the mayor.

Despite claims of “vested rights” on the Sergeant Jasper property, the city ordinance explicitly states that any rights arise only after final approval for a plan is granted — in this case, after the BAR grants a certificate of authority and the city planning staff finds that all zoning and regulatory requirements are met.

Final approval hasn’t been granted. Therefore, City Council has the right, some say obligation, to adjust the Jasper height limit to make it compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods and with the city’s planning documents.

Even with current zoning, the applicant could build something both more suitable and completely residential if it chose to. In the meantime, the BAR should respect the Planning Commission process that is already underway and defer consideration of the current Jasper proposal until that has been decided.

Jay Williams Jr.

Chair, Sergeant Jasper Committee

Charlestowne Neighborhood Association

King Street

Charleston

This letter was also signed by: Virginia Bush, William C. Cleveland, J. Randolph Pelzer, Margot Rose and Thomas Waring, members of the Sergeant Jasper committee.