This week marks the third installment in City Paper's ongoing series "After Riley" presented in conjunction with Lowcountry Local First, Preservation Society of Charleston, S.C. Community Loan Fund, Coastal Conservation League, and IfYouWereMayor.com. In it, candidates have been asked to answer a series of questions regarding culture, commerce, and livability. Candidates have responded with no knowledge of any other participant's answers.
The series will culminate on Sept. 30 with a forum put on by these organizations. The forum is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can RSVP at YourCharleston.org.
What bold, innovative idea do you have for addressing the need for new development and redevelopment while preserving the historical character of the city of Charleston?
Our Charleston brand must be protected. I will work with developers, neighbors, and stakeholders, like the Chamber of Commerce, to quickly move projects forward that benefit our city. I will also have the backbone to say no when development could harm our city.
There are regions of the city anxious for more development — like parts of West Ashley and the Upper Peninsula. Initial plans are in place for both. As mayor, I will accelerate the implementation of these plans. Our challenge is to be smart and responsible with growth, guiding it to where we want it, and keeping it away from places where it threatens quality of life.
One idea, as suggested by architect Andres Duany, is to split the Board of Architectural Review into two boards — one to focus on alterations to historic structures and smaller buildings and one to focus on larger buildings. This will ensure that big developments receive much-needed scrutiny and that smaller projects can proceed more quickly.
I would like to create Choice Neighborhoods that transform distressed neighborhoods and public and assisted projects into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with appropriate services, schools, public assets, transportation, and access to jobs. A strong emphasis would be placed on local community planning for access to high-quality educational opportunities, including early childhood education. This initiative will focus on housing, people, and the neighborhood.
I really want to see the Eastside experience a renaissance without losing the black population. The history of the Eastside is so rich and yet largely untold. For about 138 years or the equivalent of two generations, this part of town was filled with working-class, free blacks. Blacksmiths, artisans, iron workers, tailors, store owners, and many others built the buildings for which Charleston is now famous. The Civil War changed many things, and the area has never really recovered from the loss of the middle class, immigration, and lack of investment. Now with development booming, the Eastside is poised to lose out again, and if there isn't a concerted effort to halt the loss, there will be no recovery in the future. All vestiges of an amazing history will be forgotten, and we'll sit and wonder how it happened.
Charleston has witnessed unprecedented growth. The city must be prepared to protect the quality of life our current citizens expect and deserve. No matter what, we cannot sacrifice the history, environment, and cultural diversity that help make Charleston so special. The next mayor will have the opportunity to mold how future development takes shape, particularly in the high-growth areas of West Ashley, the Cainhoy Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula. As the only candidate who helped write the state's landmark county smart growth management plan, created the urban growth boundary, and implemented the state's first county green space preservation plan, I can bring a unique set of experiences and leadership to planning our city's future.
As mayor, my focus will be on the development of denser, walkable communities in those growth areas that will provide residents with access to grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and essential services via foot or bike. Traditionally, neighborhoods have developed in this way, and this design will work for Charleston. These new communities will adhere to our city's historic aesthetic characteristics.
Walkable communities will help alleviate traffic on Charleston's already congested roads by reducing reliance on cars, but will also create locations for residents to interact. It will also be important to have connectivity between newly developed communities to increase access and keep area residents off of major routes.
I would also like the city to refocus on public transit and better align our city's planning department with CARTA to provide for transit-oriented development and direct transit to growth areas.
Actually, I don't think we're going to meet that challenge with a single bold idea. That's why I've developed a comprehensive, multifaceted approach that addresses the different needs of Charleston's different neighborhoods and areas.
In terms of the peninsula, my plan will: 1. Bring zoning and height districts into conformance with the Century V Plan; 2. Reform the Board of Architectural Review to further protect the most historic areas; 3. Change height districts to floor limits to add architectural diversity; 4. Work to facilitate more effective collaboration between developers and community interests; and 5. Offer a city-sponsored review through the Civic Design Center to get everyone around the table before major projects are submitted.
Elsewhere, I will: 1. Respect the urban growth boundary; 2. Ensure zoning is consistent with current city plans; 3. Bring citizens directly into the development process by utilizing the existing Design Review Board and Civic Design Center; 4. Emphasize the creation of knowledge-based, creative, and value-added businesses; and 5. Adopt a strategic development approach, particularly west of the Ashley, that focuses on a mix of housing, retail, and commercial development that minimizes sprawl, as well as the traffic congestion that invariably accompanies it.
One idea that I would pursue as mayor would be micro-housing. Micro-houses are homes that are less than 1,000 square feet, but often times are closer to 500 square feet. Micro-housing can allow for redevelopment in areas such as the Neck in a manner that is unrivaled in terms of affordability and ecological sustainability. Micro-housing would fit in perfectly with Charleston too, because it is consistent with commuting via bicycle, walking, or public transportation, while encouraging a community-oriented lifestyle.
I would initiate a complete and thorough review of our zoning and planning ordinances and regulations and our Planning and Zoning Departments to make sure that they are properly structured to address our current and future needs.
Charleston is blessed to have many outstanding organizations that have worked long and hard to preserve our history and our livability. The Preservation Society, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Avery Institute, the Charleston Museum, and the S.C. Historical Society are some that come to mind. I would seek input and participation from all of them and all interested citizens.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Responses have been placed in alphabetical order.