In one of his final City Council meetings, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. made a bid for compromise in the ongoing battle over Sergeant Jasper.
City Council voted against rezoning the controversial property and several other sites on the peninsula that fall into the city’s 3X Height District. In October, the city’s Planning Commission proposed and then voted to recommend that buildings on these properties be limited to 55 feet in height — a decision that several council members described as unfair to property owners such the Beach Company, who have faced an uphill battle in redeveloping Sergeant Jasper.
“My concern is the Beach Company has played by the rules. They’ve followed the ordinances. They’ve followed the guidelines. They’ve done everything the city’s asked them to do,” said Councilman Dean Riegel. “They’ve invested millions of dollars in this project. … In my opinion, the Planning Commission is initiating what I call targeted zoning, spot zoning.”
City Council’s decision came after the Planning Commission asked that the vote be deferred until after the holidays, which only served to complicate matters for members of council.
“I have never, ever heard of us acting on something when the applicant itself asked us to defer a matter, which is exactly what I think we are about to attempt to do,” said Councilman Mike Seekings, who provided the lone vote against the motion to maintain the current zoning.
Council heard strong arguments from both sides of the debate during Tuesday’s meeting, but it was Mayor Riley who offered up the closest thing to an agreeable solution. Receiving approval from City Council, Riley’s motion calls on the city’s Planning Department to work with the Beach Company to devise a new plan for the Sergeant Jasper site based on the developer’s previous proposal for a planned unit development that would have consisted of 454 residential units and a 24-hour grocery store. City staff are also asked to seek input from preservationists and neighborhood associations concerned with the future of the project.
“If that doesn’t work … I would then ask the Planning Department to look at the Sergeant Jasper site and see if there is a specific zoning category or perhaps a new one that would address the site,” said Riley.
In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, City Council surprised Riley with a resolution to rename the city’s Waterfront Park after the outgoing mayor. The announcement of Riley Waterfront Park came as members of Riley’s family filed into council chambers to witness the dedication.
“Mayor Riley has been a builder not only of the human spirit but also of the physical environment which collectively help bind our city together as one,” said Mayor Pro Tem Keith Waring. “Therefore, it is with the greatest admiration and affection that we, the last City Council to have the honor to serve with him, adopt this resolution on behalf of the citizens of Charleston to express the city’s eternal gratitude to Joseph P. Riley Jr. for his extraordinary public service.”
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