Leaders-zoning could delay ReThink Folly Road vision

Leaders-zoning could delay ReThink Folly Road vision
Published: Apr. 27, 2017 at 4:13 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2017 at 6:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The ReThink Folly Road steering committee met Thursday to discuss next steps for the corridor's transformation, revealing development could hinder the plan getting off the ground. 

It's been nearly two years since a design charrette was held for public input in May 2015. Since then, the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) completed a streets study to better establish a vision for the busy corridor.

That study was completed in cooperation with the town of James Island, the city of Charleston, City of Folly Beach, Charleston County, South Carolina Department of Transportation and Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA). The municipalities joined a Memorandum of Agreement last year to cooperate on the project, focusing on five priorities: safety, connectivity, green, value and synchronicity.  Yet, some committee members said all stakeholders need to be on the same page regarding James Island zoning for the project to succeed.

"This process won't work unless the city and town and county agree on certain aspects of zoning. That's part of the Folly Road conversation," Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey said Thursday. Qualey said there are still plats in the City of Charleston zoning that are "Gathering Place" and would contribute to density concerns.

According to the ReThink Folly plan, Folly Beach, the town of James Island and Charleston County all previously approved a Folly Road Overlay Zoning District in 2014. The city of Charleston did not opt into the overlay.

"Cool businesses that connect that can feed off one another, safe bike lanes, a safe place for children, outdoor areas. That's wonderful," James Island resident Carolyn Sotka said of the overall concept for transforming Folly Road. "Without getting rid of all these different zonings, I don't really understand how it's all going to come together."

"It's going to be quite a test to see how everyone comes together, and how well we can implement." City of Charleston Council member Kathleen Wilson said. "Even the smallest things take cooperation from everyone. That's what we're hoping for."

Yet, Wilson said her focus is on "realistic and practical" items such as synching the road's traffic lights and  expediting traffic to and from Folly Beach. James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey, who chairs the steering committee, shared such priorities.

"As part of this project, they said this was low hanging fruit and if we could get the stoplights working on Folly Road it could concretely improve the traffic," the mayor said.

According to Wilson, the full vision of ReThink Folly  could be twenty years in the making.

Recommended projects include building continuous sidewalks and protected bike ways, increasing tree canopies and optimizing traffic signal timing. In addition, the study recommends other mobility initiatives including increasing comfort and safety for walkers and riders by reducing speed limits as well as improving bus stops with possible implementation of a "Folly Trolly" service to the beach.

Potential funding sources projected by the BCDCOG study include grant money as well as SCDOT, TIGER, and CARTA funding, plus county, city and town resources. 

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