Some folks at James Island's Lighthouse Point feel like their new neighbors aren't real neighborly.
It might have something to do with that big iron gate that stands at the entrance to Belle Terre subdivision — the one that stays locked all day.
Lighthouse Point residents have complained about the imposing gate so much that some Charleston City Council members now wonder if they need to rethink that whole temporary road closure.
This all started when Belle Terre owners said their home sites were being vandalized and, occasionally, building supplies would up and walk away. They asked for a temporary closure. Council said OK.
But Belle Terre's idea of a temporary fix was a $60,000 pair of brick-and-iron gates. This is a problem because, believe it or not, the city of Charleston no longer allows gated communities.
And the Wayne Manor gates don't look very temporary.
Belle Terre residents say the gates will eventually remain open and serve as very nice entrances.
Other subdivisions do it.
Their deal with the city says the gates can remain closed until 75 percent of Belle Terre's homes are built and occupied. There are 28 lots, so that's 21 houses.
That could be a while. Right now, one house is occupied, plans have been approved for two others, and plans for a fourth have been submitted.
Lighthouse Point residents fear the hammers will stop in Belle Terre when 20 houses are built. That would give residents a loophole to keep their gated community gated. For proof, they point to a neighborhood association memo which says “the gates should remain closed for many years.”
Belle Terre residents say that's baloney — they all signed off on new covenants declaring the gates temporary. Besides, the lots are privately owned, meaning seven people would have to agree to sit on half-million dollar lots.
Of course, the best reason those gates won't stay closed forever is that the city won't let it happen.
Belle Terre property owners are not happy — they feel like their neighbors are sabotaging their subdivision.
They say Lighthouse Point residents used the private land as a public park for years, and are now miffed they can't drive onto the waterfront land. They can still walk and bike in there, however — there's an open path beside the gate (which the city required).
This could get interesting. Laura Cabiness, the city's public services director, has looked at the agreement and says Belle Terre is in compliance. But some council members see it a little differently.
Councilman Dean Riegel says the city might need to reconsider the closure since the gates look “a little more than temporary.” He notes that the city's position is that all residents have the right to travel on all city streets.
It's a good point.
Belle Terre should probably sacrifice a little plywood to public relations and open those gates sometimes, before the city opens them for good.
If they do, maybe they can still salvage that joint neighborhood block party.