City Council extends Gathering Place moratorium, sends amended ordinance for revision

VIDEO: City Council extends Gathering Place moratorium, sends amended ordinance for revision

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Council unanimously approved to extend the moratorium on processing development applications and issuing permits under "gathering place" zoning Tuesday night.

The large scale mixed-use projects, like the Maybank Gathering Place on James Island, has caused controversy for nearly a year.

The unanimous approval will extend the moratorium for 60 days, ending May 7.

During this time the drafted zoning ordinance which was presented to the council, will go to several city committees to be re-vised.

"[The] revised ordinance did make some progress, and some things were changed that are definitely for the better," said Council member Kathleen Wilson. "However it's still a flawed ordinance."

This 21 page ordinance has dozens of changes in it.

A major difference, changing the name of the ordinance from a "gathering place" district to a "mixed use 3-centers" (MU-3/C) district.

The purpose of the MU-3/C is an "incentive based" district, which, like the former gathering place ordinance, would authorize mixed-use town, village, and neighborhood centers around the city at major intersections or along traditional commercial streets around the city.

Under the revision (located on page 73) the MU-3/C would, "preserve the character and quality of the existing residential neighborhoods and accommodate responsible growth and redevelopment through the use of incentives design to promote and protect the build and natural environments."

If passed it would eliminate "gathering place" zoning entirely.

"If the existing Gathering Places were to be amended, this would replace those places in Cainhoy, West Ashley," said city Planning Director Jacob Lindsey. "But any additional use would need council approval."

The draft was put together by an advisory committee made up of city staff, James Island residents, and professional developers.

Many agreed the draft isn't ready quite yet.

"There were a lot of hours, and a lot of time [put into this]," said committee member Cathryn Zommer. "We came together and we worked very hard to envision what [would be] a way to honor Maybank for us, and to rewrite and re-imagine this zoning ordinance."

"We need further study," added Lindsay Hamrick, of James Island. "We need to look at traffic studies. We need to look at the density allotment a little bit closer and see how it's not only going to affect people on James Island but people in the city."

Council unanimously deferred the revised ordinance under the condition it be sent to several committees including the community development committee and traffic and transportation committee, before it goes back to full council.

Lindsey said the revised ordinance would not apply to the current Maybank Gathering Place project.

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