Two Beach Company projects currently being considered could have long-term effects not only on quality of life but on how similar large-scale projects are considered in the future.
After months of discussion, the Beach Co. will give its long-awaited presentation to Charleston County Council on Thursday, April 25 on a plan that would establish a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to divert future tax revenues from its proposed Kiawah River Plantation. The money will be used to cover the $84 million it will cost to prepare the 2,000-acre tract for development. In essence, the company is asking the county government to pay for its expenses. The Beach Co. says it plans to build about 1,200 high-end homes in the area as well as a hotel, golf course, and other resort-style amenities.
Critics of the Beach Co. plan say the details amount to a subsidy to a private company, with the Coastal Conservation League going so far as to call the Beach Co. efforts "nothing but a wealthy development company trying to pad their bottom line at the expense of the public." In a report released in February, the Johns Island Conservancy made their position clear, saying the TIF is "NOT in the best interests of Johns Island or the rest of Charleston County." Members of James Island Town Council piled on last week, agreeing to send an informal letter to the county in opposition to the proposal. A "Miffed about the TIF" Facebook page has even popped up, calling the proposal "the Beach Company Bailout." Beach Co. CEO John Darby has said himself that if the company doesn't receive money from the TIF, the proposed development likely won't move forward.
Charleston County Council will hear from Beach Co. officials on Thursday as well as analysts from Municap, a public finance consulting firm that's been studying the financial viability of the 45-year plan (Beach Co. is footing the bill for that analysis). After the presentation on Thursday, council will vote May 7 on whether to move forward with the TIF but will likely face several other decisions before plans are finalized.
Meanwhile, a City of Charleston Planning Commission that would have addressed the re-zoning of another Beach Co. property was canceled last week. The company is hoping to rezone 11 acres on Broad Street and Lockwood Avenue to make room for a group of four- and six-story, mixed-use apartment buildings, according to the Post and Courier. The new structures would replace the 14-story Sergeant Jasper apartment building, which could be demolished as early as 2015. Its 300 residents would be replaced by 800 in the new buildings.
"The requested rezoning has the potential to significantly change the low-density residential character of Broad Street and this area of Harleston Village at a very visible and important entry to Charleston's 'Old and Historic District' and Harleston Village," Frank Rupp, president of the Harleston Village Neighborhood Association, said in an official statement. "Some, but not all, of our concerns are the effects on quality of life, pedestrian access, traffic, and parking in Harleston Village and adjoining neighborhoods."
The Planning Commission will discuss the issues at its May 15 meeting.