Charleston City Council tonight will consider two issues that could shape the historic city’s appearance.
It has wisely given first approval to a proposal to add a second panel of the Board of Architectural Review. One would consider small projects (10,000 square feet or smaller). The other would handle larger projects.
The change is necessary given the intense interest in building and remodeling on the Charleston peninsula. One board simply doesn’t have the time and expertise to screen every project.
But on another issue council reportedly is inclined to reject the Planning Commission’s valid recommendation to dispense with the city’s 3X zoning designation. That would be a mistake.
The city eliminated that zoning years ago for all but a handful of properties because it was not right for Charleston. It allowed for very tall buildings not in keeping with the scale of the city.
The subject came up again this year because the Beach Company wants to redevelop the property where its Sergeant Jasper Apartment Building stands. One of several versions of its plan called for an 18-story building, even taller than the 14-story one there now. Most people agreed that would not be compatible with adjacent neighborhoods.
The issue has become clouded because of the Sergeant Jasper situation, but it should be quite clear. Charleston is simply not the place for 3X zoning.
As long as the designation remains, the city runs the risk of having to live with an ill-advised building or having to fight its construction.
And, as illustrated by the city’s need to double the BAR, resources are limited.
Indeed, the new BAR configuration may be only one step that the city needs to take. Preservationists, who work closely with the city’s planning department, say that the staff has too much to do, too, and should be augmented.
And as for the BAR itself, they suggest members receive training to prepare them to serve. Preservationists say being able to read building plans, for example, is essential to BAR service.
At council’s last meeting, Councilman Mike Seekings successfully moved for each of the BAR’s two panels to include two architects, a lawyer, someone in the construction or engineering industry and one lay person.
Mr. Seekings’ recommendation is similar to the one made by Andres Duany, an architect and city planner who was hired to assess Charleston’s architectural review process earlier this year.
Each panel also would have two alternates with interest and knowledge of design, preservation or construction and experience in related disciplines.
Members would serve no more than two successive, three-year terms.
The built environment of Charleston is what brings people to live, work and visit the city.
Residents and city government have, for the most part, guarded it successfully for decades.
That scrutiny and care must not be lost in the dizzying pace of development. City Council should both eliminate 3X zoning and approve the new BAR configuration as a way to maintain the city’s scale, beauty and livability.