WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - One of Charleston's oldest plantations is now the center of a debate over local development.
More than 250 residents have joined a petition to fight development at Ashley Hall Plantation, a plantation listed by the National Registry of Historic Places which dates to 1670.
"The entire property was a thousand acres that goes back to Governor Bull," longtime West Ashley resident Larry W. Freudenberg said. Freudenberg is one of hundreds of residents that oppose the annexation and rezoning of the plantation's remaining forty-five acres adjacent to the Ashley River and Captiva Row. "It's the oldest plantation on the Ashley River… the old plantation house, part of that's here. An Indian mound, there's a lot of history. This remaining forty-five acres should be preserved," Freudenberg said.
According to Gary Wadsten, Managing Partner of Carolina Holdings Group which owns the development, current county zoning allows for up to 55 homes on the site on larger lots. "It's zoned to be developed," Wadsten said, adding that he reached out to the state's Historic Preservation Office to preserve the plantation's historical elements. Wadsten said annexation into the city of Charleston was necessary to move forward with a conservation easement and public park that would
include preservation of three of the plantation's acres.
"We've come up with a plan that's going to protect the assets," Wadsten said, adding the proposal which is pending city approval includes keeping the property's historic trees.
However, annexation into the city and re-zoning would also increase the number of potential homes on the property to up to sixty-two homes. The density worries residents like Salah Hibri, who lives in nearby Ashley Hall Plantation development.
"The proposal that we've seen with these cluster houses does not fit with the surrounding area," Hibri said. "It's offensive to the historic nature of the property, and it would create a traffic nightmare for the area." Hibri said concerned neighbors would like to see a more
concrete plan for the development, though ultimately oppose the number of proposed homes. "The developer knew what he was purchasing when he purchased this property, and it's our position that this should remain a historic property."
Some like Freudenberg hope for an alternate solution, such as the city or state purchasing the land for full preservation.
"It's a jewel for West Ashley and the city of Charleston, and it should be protected," Freudenberg said. "Magnolia Gardens is privately owned and everyone would go nuts if they decided suddenly to make cluster homes."
While Jason Crowley with the Coastal Conservation League has been following the project and said annexation into the city would allow the most opportunity for preservation.
"We have had an opportunity to sit down with a representative from Seamon Whiteside, the site planners for the proposed development,
and based on the information presented to us, we feel that the proposal to annex into the City makes sense," Crowley, a project manager, said. "The property is within I526 and is surrounded by incorporated properties, thus eliminating a doughnut hole. Further, by annexing into the City and utilizing the cluster overlay versus the County's PD rezone, the developers must maintain a greater percentage of open space than would otherwise be required. We are encouraged that the character of this site will be maintained as a result of the conservation easements that the Historic Charleston Foundation shall be holding on the exteriors of the historic cultural resources as well as the three or so acres of open space around those resources."
Charleston City Council is expected to hold a public hearing regarding the re-zoning of the Ashley Hall Plantation property at its May 23 meeting.
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