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Charleston discusses adding restrictions to ‘Fill and Build’ developments

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 2:32 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:28 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston could soon put new restrictions on “Fill and Build” practices within the 100-year flood zone.

Developers use the “Fill and Build” practice in low-lying areas prone to flooding. Crews typically bring in “fill dirt” to raise the property’s elevation before building on it.

Charleston City council member Carol Jackson proposed the discussion in hopes of moving forward with new restrictions after years of studies and discussions within the city.

“We need to make sure that we’re protecting our lifestyles and the people that are already living on properties that might be subject to in-fill development,” Jackson said. “And we need to make sure that’s going to be protective on the storm-water side of things as possible.”

In the most recent Fill to Build ordinance discussed by the city, filling would not be allowed in wet zones (0-6 feet above sea level) and there would be limited fill in ecological zones.

“It’s clear that the City must adopt measures to reduce the negative flooding impacts of Fill that’s currently allowed to bring any particular building site up to Base Elevation in context with neighboring sites that normally sit at lower elevations.

A local homebuilder, Michael Rooke with Rooke Custom Homes, says changes to fill dirt regulations could have major implications on where they could build homes in the Lowcountry and how much it would cost.

“Every single house that we build needs to have fill dirt,” Rooke said.

The City of Charleston’s Director of Stormwater Management Matthew Fountain says crawl spaces could be a potential alternative for homes built in flood-prone areas, but Rooke says that would be costly.

“It could easily add $20,000 or $30,000 to the cost of the home.”

Council members are set to discuss the Fill and Build ordinance at the Charleston City Council meeting on Tuesday.

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