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High-rise will come down, but neighbors worked up over proposed plan for Sergeant Jasper

Source: Live 5 News Source: Live 5 News
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Sergeant Jasper, the high-rise apartment complex on Broad Street, will be torn down soon, but it's what could go up in its place that has neighbors concerned. The prominent property has been owned by The Beach Company since the 1950's and recently submitted its Master Plan for redevelopment.

The Beach Company is proposing 454 residential units, 35,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage.

"The proposed plans, as it stands, is terrifying."

"It's going to impact the neighborhood dramatically."

Sergeant Jasper sits between Ashley Avenue and Barre Street, which runs parallel to Harleston Village and Luke Daniels' home.

"Barre Street is pretty quiet right now. When that development gets done, forget it. It's going to be a major thoroughfare."

"For us, it's not a traffic issue,” explains the city's planning director, Tim Keane. “It's an issue of scale and a design that's appropriate for this sensitive, unique site."

Keane says the area must be rezoned from Limited Business to a Planned Unit Development or PUD. The Planning Commission will consider the request at its next meeting on February 18.

"I have faith in the system to an extent,” says Harleston Village resident Corie Hipp Erdman. “I do not have faith in the PUD, the Planned Unit Development, as it is proposed because once that gets passed or if it gets passed on the 18, we have no more input. It's all over at that point."

Keane says the PUD is a customized set of restrictions for unique locations, like Sergeant Jasper. He says the public will have a chance to weigh in again when the recommendation goes before city council at the end of March.

"There's a lot of parameters in there that would guide that. They have to have certain setbacks, the open spaces, the parks, those kind of things, the height maximums."

Daniels says he can appreciate that the land is private property. He's hoping the new development will be a fit.

"Anybody has a right, to a certain extent, to their land. My concern is congestion, traffic. Charleston already feels like it's overrun. I have to remind myself that it doesn't take five minutes to get a across town anymore, but it takes 20 minutes."

The Beach Company released the following statement on Friday: 

Fellow Residents of Charleston,

After so many productive meetings and discussions pertaining to the future plans for The Jasper, we are disappointed to see that the Preservation Society would issue false and misleading statements to its membership, the public and local media, as outlined in their recent Position Statement and Advocacy Alert.

As we near the February 18 City of Charleston Planning Commission review of the Sergeant Jasper Planned Unit Development (PUD) Master Plan, we are continuing our dialogue with the community to ensure there is a complete and accurate understanding of the proposed plan. We are also continuing to gather feedback, which we will thoughtfully consider as we move forward with the development plan.

Since the inception of the planning process in 2006, The Beach Company has actively sought the feedback of the City, surrounding neighborhoods and community organizations with an interest in the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper property. The masterplan and conceptual design concepts are a direct result of dozens of public presentations.

In order for the conversation around the Sergeant Jasper PUD to be productive, we believe it must be transparent and factual. This is the reason we write you today – to clarify several inaccuracies contained within the Position Statement and Advocacy Alert from Preservation Society of Charleston.

• From the Preservation Society: “The Beach Company has submitted a PUD Master Plan for the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper building, which will be heard at the Wednesday, Feb.18, Planning Commission Meeting at 5 p.m., 75 Calhoun Street, 3rd Floor. Rendering does not show top floors of the middle structure, which is proposed to be seven stories (four shown).”

o The rendering supplied by the Preservation Society has been altered and misrepresents the information contained in the PUD application and public presentations. The upper floors are clearly shown on the elevations prior to being altered by Preservation Society. See attached.

• From the Preservation Society: “If the PUD is approved, long before the details of the project are fully flushed out, and certainly long before the neighbors, residents and commuters will know what will be happening, the conversation will be cut off, as once approved the PUD offers no further opportunity for review.”

o This statement is inaccurate. We have participated in dozens of public presentations with multiple organizations to date, most recently with the Harleston Village Neighborhood Association and the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association. We will continue to engage with citizens throughout the process. 

The Beach Company has submitted conceptual drawings at the request of the neighborhoods to help aid their understanding and encourage dialogue, but official and final construction plans cannot be created until zoning is approved. The project will still need to undergo TRC and BAR approvals, through which conversation will continue. For your clarification, on May 16, 2013, the Historic Charleston Foundation requested in writing that The Beach Company file for PUD zoning versus more typical MU-1 zoning, to provide more control over setbacks, open space, density, etc. After further meetings with the City planning staff, 

The Beach Company is no longer seeking to change the underlying zoning to MU-1.

• From the Preservation Society: “Residents will be prevented from helping shape any significant improvements to what is likely to be the largest, most-dense, most-impactful project ever conceived south of Calhoun Street.” 

o This statement is inaccurate. The statement ‘… largest, most-dense, most-impactful …' is an embellishment. The project is subject to all standard City of Charleston, public BAR and TRC review and approval processes. Residents are encouraged to participate in the BAR approval process.

• From the Preservation Society: “To meet zoning criteria for a PUD, the property must be rezoned to the ‘Urban Core' classification, the city's densest commercial designation.”

o The PUD calls for predominately residential uses.

o All the requirements of the City ordinances governing PUDs are satisfied.

o The Beach Company is requesting an amendment to the Century V Comprehensive Plan so that it is consistent with the PUD zoning.

• From the Preservation Society: “[The PUD] Allows for the removal of all trees on the property.”

o We will adhere to all standard mitigation requirements. In addition, the proposed plan includes 34% open space, which is 170% of the PUD open space requirements.

• From the Preservation Society: “The site will be removed from the Old City Height District, allowing developers to propose new heights far above other historic neighborhood heights downtown.”

o This statement is inaccurate. The intention of the PUD is to propose reduced heights from the current 14-story building. The proposed PUD limits heights based on four stories along the public right of ways, which is a well-established architectural form in downtown Charleston buildings. The plan proposes a maximum of seven stories on a portion of one building in the middle of the site.

• From the Preservation Society: “Developers may propose their own version of affordable housing.”

o The term “affordable housing” is never used within the PUD application and implies subsidized housing. The PUD submittal does not propose subsidized housing, but instead targets the Charleston peninsula workforce (people who live and work on the peninsula.) We are proposing approximately 9% of the rentals to be allotted for workforce housing including a range of rental options in line with the diversity of the Charleston business district's workforce.

• From the Preservation Society: “The PUD's traffic study is constructed on the minimum uses allowed, not the maximum, and assumes that 35% of inhabitants will not use cars.”

o This statement is inaccurate. The Beach Company conferred with City of Charleston prior to the traffic study to establish traffic assumptions, and as a result, the PUD traffic study is based upon maximum uses allowed.

The Position Statement and Advocacy Alert also fail to mention the concessions made by The Beach Company at the request of the Preservation Society and other interested parties. The concessions include: submitting conceptual design plans prior to zoning, providing increased parking ratios, proposing PUD zoning vs. MU-1, limited retail space, increased parking to avoid street parking, additional open space and the elimination of a 60,000 square foot office building.

As always, The Beach Company remains committed to transparency throughout the zoning and development process and will continue to seek and incorporate valuable input from the community. 

Sincerely,

John Darby

President and Chief Executive Officer

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