As a 28-year resident and property owner in Harleston Village, I am at a loss to describe my feelings regarding the ongoing unpleasantness between Mayor Joe Riley and the Historic Charleston Foundation on the issue of the cruise ship industry.
Although it could be amazement, amusement or sadness, I think horrified is most apt.
The mayor and HCF are busy battling it out over something that affects the peninsula maybe once a week.
Meanwhile, the West Side and other areas of Charleston are undergoing significant erosion in quality of life that both parties have chosen to overlook.
The West Side is steadily becoming a dorm/frat house for the College of Charleston. While I don’t begrudge anyone’s right to become a landlord, there are capacity limits that are in effect, but not enforced in the city of Charleston.
In one instance on Montagu Street, “investors” took a large two-family home (three bedrooms, two baths on each floor) and “renovated” it as a 12-bedroom dorm with six bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen on each floor.
I have been told by city officials, HCF officials and court officials that only four unrelated persons can inhabit any home; however, this practice seems to be ignored on the West Side.
The typical method for ignoring this statute is for the landlord to allow only four students to sign the lease and claim ignorance that six are living in the apartment.
This is laughable given the fact that the landlord was the one who completed the renovations that turned the living room, dining room and family room into bedrooms.
During some Board of Zoning Appeals meetings that addressed variance issues, the HCF and its representative said they were “fighting” on the neighborhood’s behalf.
The entirety of their argument was to stand and say, “HCF is opposed to this matter.”
Gee, thanks a lot for the hard work.
This is by no means the only home in the area where this is happening. Walk around the West Side at dusk and you will notice six and eight cars parked in driveways of homes you know have only three or four bedrooms.
As I write this letter, another house in the neighborhood is undergoing “renovation.”
By removing the kitchen in the upstairs unit, the landlord will have five bedrooms upstairs and three down.
I realize that the city is busy with many issues, but I believe that this issue deserves more scrutiny.
Density is an important issue and that these practices are illegal.
The least the city should do to accommodate the increased density (more than 50 people residing along one city block) is to mark defined parking spaces on residential streets.
Not everyone is so astute as to park with maximum space utilization in mind.
Over the years I have gladly offered the use of my home for spring and fall house tours.
I am sure this has helped the HCF fund its fight to address density issues on the peninsula.
I hope it will notice that the “golden egg” is becoming tarnished and may soon disappear.
While the HCF continues the fight against the onslaught of bodies brought in by the cruise ships, the real density battle is well under way — and we are losing.
Perhaps these “investors” would allow house tour ticketholders to tour these historic “renovated” properties.
James Green Montagu Street Charleston