[image-1]The 132-unit apartment complex set to replace the Carmike James Island 8 movie theater earned conceptual approval from Charleston’s Design Review Board. In a narrow, 3-2 vote, board members said the plans for the project had evolved since an unsuccessful outing in March for the development that drew considerable criticism from the public during Monday’s meeting.

“I’ll tell you part of your problem. You’ve taken everybody’s movie theater away, so they’re mad about that,” island resident Bert Dasher told those presenting plans for the development. “If you want to get buy-in, you don’t need to talk to us about what you’re adding to my neighborhood. You are not adding anything to my neighborhood except for traffic. To get buy-in … do something else. Make an effort to show that you’re concerned about the traffic in our neighborhood.”

According to project designers with the firm Goff D’Antonio, the new complex will include 20 fewer apartments than the maximum allowed by the property’s zoning and the current designs will preserve all the grand trees on the site. Although several in attendance at Monday’s meeting questioned the accuracy of their assessment, developers also claimed that the new apartments would not create any additional traffic compared to the movie theater.

“My biggest concern is the growing numbers of large, large buildings. On James Island, a building like this, especially four stories, is deemed a large building. And the continuing encroachment down Folly Road, we’re seeing these buildings become more and more common,” said Charleston City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, whose district covers much of James Island. “It leads to a lot of consternation on the island, a lot of concern as we watch things get bigger and bolder and continue on closer down to the beach.”

Wilson said she appreciated the changes made to the project since plans last came before the board and the preservation of the grand trees was welcome news. She and a few others bemoaned the fact that the former theater property would not be used for retail or commercial space.

Following a request from Charleston Moves executive director Katie Zimmerman, those developing the new complex said they would be willing to consider providing bike- and pedestrian-friendly connections in the project design. Developers were less open to requests to reduce the overall size of the apartment buildings.

“I think we’ve done what has been asked by this board and by others to look at these things,” said Hank D’Antonio of Goff D’Antonio. “We can’t solve all the problems of James Island in one site here.”

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