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Charleston City Council advances racial conciliation commission plan

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 11:57 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:54 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston City Council voted to move forward with the city’s Human Affairs and Racial Conciliation Commission during Tuesday night’s meeting but will decide later whether to make the commission permanent.

Most of the conversation at the nearly-six-hour meeting centered on the fate of the commission. After close to an hour and a half of discussion, council members decided voted 8-4 to pass it on its second reading.

“It does not pass any ordinance or against what you believe,” City of Charleston Council Member Jason Sakran said about the commission. “We’re not here to pass ordinances on most recommendations. We’re here to simply create a permanent commission.”

However, some commissioners said they would prefer the commission be deferred, so the public can be more informed.

“I believe we should at least defer this and make sure the public is fully aware of the name change and what this is going to do,” City of Charleston Council Member Caroline Parker said.

Ahead of the discussion, Charleston locals shared why they were either for the commission or opposed it.

“The least we can do for the citizens whose ancestors laid every brick in every street and every cinderblock in this city, that they should be included in the decisions that affect where and how they live,” one resident said.

“A strong mandate should have a clear definition of what the main purpose is, which is equity,” another said. “If you want to get after it, define equity in a way that makes sense for you to be able to bring back to your constituents.”

Council members said they will revisit the commission’s future in two weeks when it comes up for a third reading at the next council meeting.

Council passes $11 million business improvement district plan

City Council did vote unanimously for the King Street Business Improvement District plan, which Charleston leaders hope will reshape area businesses and revitalize the commercial hub that has many properties currently vacant.

The project, which has been in the works for months, will involve renovating the streets and signage along the popular shopping district.

Councilman Peter Shahid said in December the improvement district will go further than that, however, ultimately giving business owners a say as to how to improve King Street in the future.

But the proposed district did not come without controversy. Sightsee Shop & Coffee co-owner Joel Sadler said last month the effort to extend and beautify King Street further up the peninsula would make everything in the area more expensive. He feared it would increase property taxes, drive up rent and force locals living in the area to move further away.

Sadler says he believes they would be priced out of business in favor of chain stores or wealthy business groups.

Republic Development and Management Group Operations Director Jeff Diehl, meanwhile, said expansion could be good for local businesses, adding that “more business begets more business.”

“If we have big places move in next to small business owners then automatically those business owners benefit from the increased traffic,” Diehl said last month. “We often think they’ll put us out of business but in reality, more restaurants on King Street means that we will be busier just because of the foot traffic as a destination.”

The business improvement district will be funded primarily from tax dollars that are diverted and pooled, so the businesses have the funding for projects.

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