Amendment passes to lower height restriction on Sergeant Jasper district, heads to councils

Amendment passes to lower height restriction on Sergeant Jasper district, heads to councils
Sergeant Jasper.(Source: CFD)
Sergeant Jasper.(Source: CFD)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In a 5-2 vote, the Planning Commission approved a proposal Wednesday to reduce the height restrictions in the historic district of downtown Charleston to 55 feet. 
That's the district where Sergeant Jasper stands. 
The recommendation will now go before Charleston City Council on November 24.

The current zoning for the historic district is 3x. That means for each foot a building sits off the road, its height can be increased three feet.

The planning commission meeting began with those in support of the height reduction.

"We've been arguing that 3x is a relic and dinosaur, as it's been referred to for years," said Chief Preservation Officer at Historic Charleston Foundation Winslow Hastie. "We think this is perfectly appropriate."

Others, took to the mic to oppose the proposal.

"That should caution you to hit the pause button on this," said Elliott Smith.

The approval of the proposal brought a lot of opinions.
For Hastie, it meant one step toward a positive direction for Sergeant Jasper's future.

"Our hope is to come up with a plan that we think is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods," said Hastie.

The Beach Company, on the other hand, felt this move was unprecedented. They released this statement:

The Beach Company is disappointed with the Planning Commission's vote to propose downzoning and believes that the Sergeant Jasper site is being targeted with spot zoning – a dangerous precedent to set for property owners.  The self-initiated proposed zoning change by the commission is unprecedented.
The Planning Commission is well aware that The Beach Company has been working toward the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper site for years under its existing zoning, and a rezoning of this property midstream sends a loud message to developers and property owners that their property rights are not safe and the planning process is not to be trusted. The initial plan for the site received support from the city, and The Beach Company has made a significant investment towards the redevelopment of this property. When it comes to responsible development on the peninsula, Charleston needs to stand behind a vision that benefits future generations instead of rejecting plans to appease a vocal minority.

The Beach Company's plan A, that was denied by the Board of Architectural Review, sought to tear down the 150-foot Sergeant Jasper building and rebuild an apartment complex in its place. 
That proposal is now tied-up in a lawsuit that The Beach Company filed against the board.

An alternative plan was introduced by The Beach Company on Monday that aims to renovate the Sergeant Jasper building, not demolish it. This plan would redo the interior of the existing building and develop the surrounding 4.2-acre property to include a five-story parking garage and a six-story mixed-use building with office and retail space. 
Councilmember Mike Seekings, whose many constituents were in the meeting, said a lot has to happen before changes are seen.

"This is one step in the process," said Seekings. "I think all of us in the City are hoping that at some point the future of the Sergeant Jasper will be something that's collectively decided, not decided by someone we have absolutely no control over, which is in a courtroom."

Sergeant Jasper currently sits vacant, overlooking Colonial Lake on Broad Street.

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