After 4-hour meeting, decisions delayed on 2 hot-button Charleston issues

Charleston City Council met Tuesday night for over four hours to discuss several hot-button topics in the city.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 4:19 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston City Council met Tuesday night for over four hours to discuss several hot button topics in the city including development in West Ashley on Sumar Street, creating a perimeter to the peninsula, adding a bicycle lane to King Street.

Sumar Street development

First, city council voted 8-4 to approve the development of another proposal on Sumar Street that would include only civic buildings and green space. The triangular-shaped parcel of land was the former site of a Piggly Wiggly store in West Ashley at what has been called the “suicide merge” of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard at Olde Towne Road.

Last month, the City of Charleston Community Development Commission meeting lasted three hours as commissioners argued over three different proposals on the Sumar Street development.

Bringing up the issue again brought frustrated and heated discussions between council members.

“When are we going to be able to stand up and the citizens of West Ashley? When are we going to stand up for the citizens of West Ashley and do something positive?” District 9 Councilman Peter Shahid said. “Here’s our opportunity to do that. Here’s our opportunity to start the process.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg pleaded for members who voted against the first option initially to bring it back up if they had a change of heart.

“But honestly, all three options, notably option one, included a robust civic space, including the office space,” Tecklenburg said.

Since the topic brought conflict between council members, taking a look at what council members voted for the future of Sumar Street is key in figuring out why the development is still on hold.

The four who voted against the development, Tecklenburg and Councilmen Karl Brady, Stephen Bowden and Ross Appel, said a majority of community members in West Ashley want to see commercial space in this area.

The developers say they are waiting on guidance and want to get this done for West Ashley, however that looks. But they could ask for the $600,000 termination fee if they are not involved in future designs. If the developers are not included in the design phase, it would take between eight months to a year for staff to create a new plan.

Adding a bike lane to King Street

The other hot topic of the meeting was adding a bike lane and safer pedestrian access on King Street, but city council once again deferred that plan.

There is no answer on the next steps, but the one thing all council members could agree on is there is a lot to consider when it comes to King Street.

Thirty-four community comments started off the council meeting with 99% of them addressing the bike lane. Council members said King Street is the heart of Charleston.

Tecklenburg said 30,000 people, both tourists and locals, walk along King Street every single day.

Business owners said when considering wider sidewalks and a bike lane on the road, the city must also consider the businesses, the deliveries, and the people who need to park to get to those businesses.

“Delivery trucks, where they are already pulling over, they already stay in the middle of the road,” King Street Business Owner Jordan Lash says. “It’s going to block traffic and cause more congestion; I think it’s actually not safe to have the bike lane there.”

Community members and advocates, on the other hand, supported the bike lane for multiple reasons including safety, pollution and traffic.

“We residents, bike riders, transportation advocates and climate advocates have organized data and showed up time and time again to publicly and directly respond to this opposition. However, we have not been met with the same reciprocity,” Carolina Brandy, who supports a bike lane on King Street, said.

As for the future of the plan, some council members brought up conducting traffic studies, hearing more from businesses, and possibly conducting a study to see what would happen if King Street was shut down to all traffic.