Charleston City Council voted to rezone the Sgt. Jasper site, allowing for the construction of as many as 324 new residential units. Council’s decision goes against a recommendation from the city Planning Commission, but added an amendment to encourage the creation of more affordable housing on the property. Councilmen Peter Shahid, Mike Seekings, and Rodney Williams voted against the zoning change.

Representatives from neighborhoods surrounding Sgt. Jasper spoke against the new zoning plan, asking that members of City Council show respect for the Planning Commission’s decision. Kristopher King, executive director of the Preservation Society, said the ordinance was drafted in haste following a legal battle between the city and Sgt. Jasper developers the Beach Company.

Under the new zoning, which is intended for sites located at primary entrances to the city, denser residential developments are permitted on commercially zoned properties. As a part of the Gateway Overlay District, between 50-78 residential units are allowed per acre of high ground provided that no less than 70 percent of a property’s floor area is used for residential purposes. Councilman Keith Waring proposed an amendment to the zoning ordinance, which would require the creation of approximately 24 affordable housing units for the Sgt. Jasper site if developers wish to reach the maximum allowable density for any new project.

“The need for affordable housing is so acute on this peninsula, anytime we can create one, we need to take that opportunity,” said Waring.

Councilmen James Lewis Jr. and Robert Mitchell bemoaned the lack of affordable housing in the area, saying that the workers responsible for making Charleston a world-class city can’t even afford to live on the peninsula. City Planner Jacob Lindsey and the city’s legal counsel advised council members that the city is constrained by state law in mandating affordable housing.

Following City Council’s vote, Dan Doyle, the Beach Company’s vice president of development, said that affordable housing had not previously been a part of the conversation regarding Sgt. Jasper, but the developers would see how the amended resolution fits in with plans for the site. Ultimately, Doyle said that council’s decision provides developers a better option to shift away from commercial uses, adding, “It’s a positive because it reflects what we’ve heard for years — that this needs to be primarily residential.” 

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