Charleston residents want to limit student-style housing in their neighborhoods

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 9:38 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 4:24 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A number of people who live in downtown Charleston came out to the city’s planning commission meeting, saying that they wanted to protect their neighborhoods.

Most live in the Harleston Village area and say they did not want a lot of student housing coming to their streets. They came out in response to a city zone announcement.

The City of Charleston proposed an overlay zone stretching from Radcliffe Street down to Market Street. The commission explained that the overlay zone would actually create more requirements, including resident feedback, before a private developer or the College of Charleston could come in and build student-style housing in the area.

The commission said it’s difficult to have the conversation since they don’t have a clear definition of what student housing is.

In the context of the meeting and overlay zone, student housing refers to both private developers building suite style and apartment units marketed towards students, as well as College of Charleston dorms.

The planning commission postponed the discussion so the city can go back and have meetings with the neighborhoods before adjusting the zone and proposal.

The proposal in part reads to “establish a Student Housing (STH) District Overlay Zone for the purpose of identifying sites appropriate for the establishment or expansion of student housing uses and to change the Zone Map.”

Residents said that they did not want ‘student housing’ style apartments clumped together in their downtown neighborhoods. They also think that the overlay zone, while it may have ways to limit the student housing, will actually invite developers because of the topic.

Sally Ballard has lived on her street for 42 years, and she and her neighbors say they want to be included in this decision since it will affect their quality of life.

“We have children, we have families, we have people walking dogs, we have people going to King Street for ice cream in the evening. But if this overlay zone comes in for student housing with the lines that it has, as they affect Radcliffe Borough, we are going to be overwhelmed with noise and students. They will be right there on Warrant Street with us,” Ballard said.

Laura Eisenstein says the neighborhood feel is being threatened by inviting a clump of student housing in.

“In the 10 years that I have lived here, I’ve seen increased traffic on King Street. I have seen businesses come and go, and I believe that this ordinance will lead to a significant loss,” Eisenstein said.

Robbie Leslie is a father of three with one on the way, and says it’s a challenge to raise a family downtown, but he and his wife love it.

They do have concerns about a lot of students moving into their neighborhood.

“We see a lot of things that I would attribute to the college as being a negative impact for someone like me, living on Warren Street,” Leslie said. “We love living there and I don’t want to move anywhere else. But having a dorm being constructed right across the street and the direct impact that could have on my family, would give reason for us to stop and think how are we raising children here?”

The commission listened to people who live in the area express concerns for about an hour. The commission members agreed to postpone the topic even before the public hearing, based on the turnout.

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