Sgt. Jasper debate continues in court-ordered meeting

VIDEO: Court-ordered meeting on fate of Sgt. Jasper site to begin Wednesday

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A court-ordered mediation will begin Wednesday morning over the future of the Sergeant Jasper site in downtown Charleston at Broad and Barre Streets.

City leaders and developers met Tuesday to review the current plans on the table ahead of Wednesday's mandated closed-door meeting..

"Our collective goal is to attempt to have a unanimous resolution we can all live with which is beneficial to the city of Charleston, beneficial enough so that the developers can afford to build it and doesn't decrease the quality of life for people who live on the peninsula," Charleston city planner Jacob Lindsay said.

The plan to be discussed includes demolishing the existing Sergeant Jasper and building up to 350 residential units as well as office and retail space. The plan also includes setting aside St. Mary's Field as public space.

"A version of this plan is what I believe we will take into mediation tomorrow," Lindsay said.

The 1950s apartment building has already been through several rounds of plans, denials and deferrals for the past three years. Hot button issues have focused on building height, open space and square footage.

"Hopefully, everyone will come around and we'll have a compromise and be able to move forward," John Darby, CEO of The Beach Company, said. "But I think it's going to be very difficult. The difficulty is getting consensus from all the different groups Everyone has their specific concern, and they're not consistent. So getting that many people to agree on a plan will be a huge challenge."

Darby said the loss of revenue from the building, the cost of planning and demolition thus far has exceeded $15 million. "That's $15 million that didn't need to happen," Darby said. "Clearly, if we had a do-over, we'd have built on the adjacent land and leave the building there."

At a special city council meeting Monday, Charleston City Council voted to authorize Mayor John Tecklenburg, Councilmember Mike Seekings and Councilmember Keith Waring to attend the court-ordered mediation regarding the Sgt. Jasper project. The Board of Architectural Review met and appointed Jay White and Janette Alexander to represent the BAR at the mediation.

"I'm hopeful," Mayor John Tecklenburg said. "There's been a lot of progress with this planned development, all the parties are talking, and we'll be getting together and hopefully come together in an agreement."

The Beach Company released the following statement after Tuesday's pre-mediation meeting:

Tomorrow, April 6, 2016, The Beach Company will enter mediation with the stakeholders from the City of Charleston and neighborhood and preservation groups involved in the BAR appeal case in an effort to reach a resolution for the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper site. Prior to ruling on the appeal, Circuit Court Judge J. C. Nicholson, Jr. ordered all stakeholders into mediation.

Today The Beach Company held a pre-mediation meeting with the stakeholders and members of the community, which included a presentation of the various plans to be discussed in mediation tomorrow. Please see the below statement from John Darby, CEO of The Beach Company regarding today's meeting and tomorrow's mediation:

We appreciate the public's participation in the meeting this afternoon in order to prepare for the work ahead of us tomorrow. The Beach Company will continue to make every effort to achieve a design that is both good for the city and economically feasible. We remain optimistic that mediation will succeed, but realistically we know it will be an extreme challenge.

We acknowledge that with the sheer number of different groups involved in the mediation, consensus may be difficult to reach. All stakeholders have previously stated their positions; some parties oppose any plan at all costs and in the past, some individuals wished to deny our property rights. We hope that the parties present in mediation will make the most of this final opportunity to collaboratively determine the future of the Sergeant Jasper site.

The question remains open as to how will we move forward with an approval process. This matter will be addressed in mediation.

If an agreed upon plan is not reached in mediation, The Beach Company is prepared to hear Judge Nicholson's ruling. While previous mediations for the site have resulted in an impasse, Judge Nicholson will rule on the appeal once mediation is finished tomorrow, with or without an agreement from the groups, and his order will depend on the outcome of the mediation. We have options; it's been a long process, but now is the time to come to
a resolution.

Neighborhood and preservation groups are also set to enter the closed-door session Wednesday.

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