Sgt. Jasper needs a better plan

Houses along Lockwood Drive and the Sergeant Jasper apartment building -- viewed from the James Island Expressway on Wednesday -- is now empty awaiting demolition and a decision on its replacement. (Wade Spees/Staff)

The Beach Company’s outsized plans for redeveloping the Sergeant Jasper site encouraged Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review to send the plans back to the drawing board.

BAR members concluded that the proposed apartment tower is simply too tall for the site at Broad and Barre streets. They are right.

That finding should embolden the Charleston Planning Commission to bring the anomalous, outdated zoning for the property in line with the rest of the old city.

Public opposition to the project by downtown residents continues unabated. Downtown neighborhood associations and preservationists have objected as one to the latest towering proposal. More than 200 residents attended the BAR meeting, virtually all opposed to the project.

The city and the Beach Company should be getting the message. The project needs to be downscaled in keeping with the surrounding neighborhoods and the historic city.

Downtown residents are feeling the pressure of development and tourism. There is a growing sense that too many new buildings in Charleston are uninteresting and unattractive.

Architect Andres Duany, hired by the city to examine its process for approving new buildings, put some of the blame on the BAR. Its directive to the Beach Company is encouraging.

Can so many people be wrong in objecting to the proposed design? The property belongs to the Beach Company, but it is a prominent part of adjacent residential neighborhoods, and it serves as a gateway to the old city.

As a member of the BAR said, “When you have this many people opposed to it, it’s not in harmony in keeping with the neighborhood.”

The zoning in question would allow a building up to 330 feet — more than twice the height of the existing building. The BAR has said the proposed 214-foot tower is too tall.

The city’s Planning Commission is to discuss 3X zoning at a special meeting today. It could recommend that City Council eliminate 3X zoning. If that were to occur, the maximum height for the property would likely be 55 feet, currently the height limit elsewhere on the lower peninsula.

There’s a reason for the general application of that lower zoning designation. It keeps out-of-scale projects from overshadowing the historic city.

One reason developers want to build in Charleston is that the city’s popularity provides opportunities for them to prosper — and the more they get on a site, the more they can prosper.

One reason historic Charleston looks the way it does is that people love their city and care enough about how it looks and functions to make waves. Those efforts should prompt the city’s scrutiny and support.