Traffic accidents spark Johns Island rezoning concerns

Despite more than 100 Johns Island residents saying they are against rezoning plans for a road, Charleston City Council is still considering the change.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 10:45 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2022 at 11:23 PM EST
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JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Despite more than 100 people who live on Johns Island saying they are against rezoning plans for a road, Charleston City Council is still considering the change.

The city’s planning commission pushed forward plans to rezone Southwick Drive at Monday night’s meeting..

“You know, if we had the millions of dollars to fix the issues ourselves, we would, but we don’t,” Karyn Buckley, a Southwick Drive resident, said.

Middleburg Communities is trying to rezone 16 acres of land on Southwick Drive from about 128 homes at one unit per acre to at least 160 homes at six units per acre. The city’s planning commission voted 7-2 to move this project to the full council.

“On paper, promises or diagrams, you know, that’s the picture they want to happen, but we provided pictures of life every day,” Buckley said.

At least 40 people who live on Southwick Drive spoke to the Charleston Planning Commission and another 92 who live nearby signed an email to a city council member opposing a project to rezone Southwick Drive. With dozens of accidents happening on this road in the last few years, driver safety is a top concern.

Middleburg Communities, relying on a 2016 SCDOT analysis, says the 85th percentile of drivers goes 42 mph on this 35-mph road. Only one accident was reported in this three-year study.

But Charleston Police Department data shows there have been 13 accidents reported and 34 speeding tickets since Jan. 1, 2019. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office reported eight accidents, 30 speeding tickets and three DUI arrests.

Charleston City Planning Manager Christopher Morgan thinks the speed limit should change.

“I think, as a planner, 35 mph is too fast for that roadway,” Morgan said. “I think we would certainly be supportive in any efforts to try and reduce the speed of traffic on that roadway.”

Morgan says a traffic study is not required before it goes to the full council, but Middleburg Communities will have to send one to the city’s Technical Review Committee at some point.

“And that traffic study will look at mitigation that might be needed, possibly a four-way intersection on Southwick Drive where their intersection would turn in, possible turn lanes,” Morgan said.

Buckley says a traffic light on Maybank and Southwick must happen. However, she still fears the city will not keep their promises.

“Sometimes, you know, the influx of money doesn’t end up where it’s needed the most,” Buckley said.

Charleston City Council will decide on this rezoning on Dec. 20.