Mayoral hopefuls weigh in on Beach Co.’s BAR challenge

Long-term plans could decide the future of the Sergeant Jasper Apartments, as well as neighboring Moultrie Playground. The 14-story apartment, owned by The Beach Co., was built in 1950. Company executives have said they eventually want to upgrade and modernize the location.

Charleston mayoral candidate John Tecklenburg has called on The Beach Co. to “cease and desist” in its legal fight against the city’s Board of Architectural Review.

His statement came after The Post and Courier reported the company’s lawsuit is seeking to have the city’s 1931 ordinance that created the board thrown out on constitutional grounds.

“This is a stunningly counter-productive act that directly threatens the quality of life of every resident in every area of the city of Charleston,” he said. “If we cannot shape future development in even the most historic neighborhoods of our city, how can we possibly hope to place reasonable limits on new developments in areas like James Island, Johns Island, Daniel Island and West Ashley?”

However, one of his opponents, WINGS for Kids founder Ginny Deerin, said there’s no way Charleston residents will let The Beach Co. take down the BAR.

“The next mayor needs to have the backbone to stand up to developers when their plans would undermine our quality of life,” she said. Unlike some other candidates, she returned a $1,000 contribution from the company because of her concerns over its Jasper plan.

Former City Councilman Maurice Washington said the board “is the only legal protection that prevents the demolition of buildings in the historic district. The loss of BAR protection would be absolutely catastrophic.”

Washington said scale isn’t the important standard, “appropriateness is. None of the plans that have been proposed for the Sergeant Jasper property are appropriate for that site or neighborhood.”

The Beach Co. had hoped to raze its existing, 150-foot-tall, 1950s-era apartment building and redevelop the site. Its earlier schemes for a dense, low-rise development and a higher 200-foot-tall “city in the park” building were rebuffed by neighbor and preservation groups.

The BAR then rejected a plan for a new 150-foot building, even though its height and proposed uses fell within the city’s zoning code. After that, The Beach Co. filed its lawsuit.

Tecklenburg’s family once lived across Colonial Lake from the Jasper site and was unhappy when the first high-rise was built after 1950. He has said of replacing it, “There’s no lesson in the second kick of the mule.”

The BAR has not been a major issue in the race so far. Candidates have expressed mixed views on whether the board should be split into two bodies — one to review new design, another to review renovations — as recommended by a city consultant.

Tecklenburg, a commercial real estate agent, said The Beach Co. should stop its challenge to the board’s existence; the city should bring the Jasper site into conformance with its Century V plan; and “all parties should then come back to the table and work to find a solution that everyone can accept.”

“That will not be easy,” he added, “but the city of Charleston is a uniquely special place with a uniquely special way of life — and our residents deserve the extra effort that’s sometimes required to preserve and protect it.”

Candidates Toby Smith, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis and City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie could not be reached for comment.

Reach Robert Behre at (843) 937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.