Gas station design rejected for old Piggly Wiggly site

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A new design for a gas station on Sumar Street, in West Ashley, was presented to Charleston's Design and Review Board Monday evening.

City leaders ended up rejecting the proposal that would go at the site of the former Piggly Wiggly in West Ashley.

Former city council member Paul Tinkler along with a room full with more than 30 people against the proposal say the gas station is not fitting for the site.

"Tonight with all the people showing up in opposition to this plan, it's evident it worked so I'm proud of that," Tinkler said.

That doesn't mean a gas station at that site is out of the picture, though this is the second time plans were rejected.

According to Charleston city planner Jacob Lindsey, the developer Faison and Associates, LLC will head back to the drawing board, with its planners, and come back with a new proposal soon.

"This is where Charleston was founded and we need to give special care to the his location because of that," Tinkler said. "We need to recognize the history it just adds to the pride that people who live their have in the community."

District 9 Representive for Charleston City Council, Peter Shahid, says he's is making the revitalizing of West Ashley a priority and he hopes the site will turn into something that can unite the communities in the area. He was also against the design plans.

"I'm pleased that they heard what the neighbors were complaining about and what they want for this area." Shahid said. 

Because the property's zoning allows a gas station, city leaders can't interfere with property rights. Lindsey said they can make sure the design is up to standard.

Scott Adams with Adams and Wilson Developments spoke during the public comments at the meeting. He says he represents Faison and Associates, LLC.

"We are trying to sit down adequately address the staff's comment," Adams said.

The Design Review Board Staff recommended for the architectural team to consider a smaller scale gas station as suggested by community members in addition to a unique design because it's the gateway to a historical part of town.

People who live and work in the area hope the developer goes an entirely different direction.

"Today's shiny new gas station is tomorrow's blight," Sue Buchanan said.

"The spot has the potential to define the character of this entire neighborhood and this entire section of Charleston," Andy Gilliom said.

Many are appalled at the notion of a gas station.

"This gas station is totally inappropriate for our area," Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the Old Charlestowne District is rich in history and a gas station is not fitting for the area.

The plans included a Sunoco gas station with 20 pumps with a convenient store that could be open 24/7 and a kitchen to prepare hot food ready to order and green space.

On West Ashley resident at the meeting was in favor because he says the development would look better than a vacant lot now, though many disagree. Bachanan feels it would create a downward spiral for an area that's considered an entry into the city.

"A lot of litter, a lot of noise, light pollution," Buchanan said. "Possible loitering at night and just the use of alcohol."

Others are okay with a gas station as long as it's up to their standards.

"If there is going to be a gas station, we want beautiful landscaping and signage," John Steinberger said.

Steinberger references a master plan that was drawn up in 2000, with a clock tower as the gateway into the city.

Meanwhile, city officials say they get it.

"We have heard from neighborhoods, both in terms of opposition and support for the project, and we're going to make sure all the comments of the neighbors do get forwarded on to the board members," Charleston city planner Jacob Lindsey said. "So, we are listening."

Many just hope the city pumps its breaks on gas station proposal for good.

"It's just totally out of character in every way," Buchanan said.

"A gas station is not a cultural touchstone," Gilliom said.

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