Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg stressed the urgency of issues such as flooding and traffic in his third State of the City address Tuesday night.
Tecklenburg paused Tuesday’s Council meeting halfway in order to deliver the speech to a room that had mostly emptied out after anti-plaquers made their voices heard on the now-deferred matter of setting a plaque next to the Calhoun monument at Marion Square.
Mayor Tecklenburg announced that Charleston will hire its first full-time floodplain manager, a full-time grant writer with a focus on drainage, and will establish a new website to keep the city informed on its updated drainage plan.
“For more than 300 years, the people of Charleston have lived with the threat of hurricanes, high tides and flooding,” he said. “But, now, with rising seas, a history of ill-advised development in some areas, and three major flood events in three years, we simply must make flooding and drainage our city’s top long-range priority.”
He also said that the city will ask the state legislature to allow it to move tourism revenue coming from accommodation and hospitality fees into flooding and drainage efforts, partly in an effort to ensure that Charleston’s expected six million visitors in 2018 can contribute to its posterity.
Mayor Tecklenburg commended the efforts of Traffic and Transportation director Keith Benjamin in conducting a planning process that identified 13 “priority projects” to be added to the city’s traffic plan.
“This year, we will be moving ahead with even more major traffic and transportation improvements, including completion of our citywide parking plan, additional park and ride options, signal upgrades, the roll out of a comprehensive bike/pedestrian plan, and major road construction projects with our state and regional partners,” he said.
Earlier in the evening during the City Council meeting, Tecklenburg expressed hope that a park and ride will be available to citizens “within the next 30 days.”
Councilman and CARTA board chairman Mike Seekings estimated that the city-owned park and ride property will last a minimum of one year, with transit running out of the hub 21 hours a day.
The most decisive vote of the night came with Council’s unanimous approval to annex two West Ashley properties: the 30-acre Millbrook Plantation and the 2,200-acre Whitfield tract.
While North Charleston already voted to annex both properties, the City of Charleston invoked a state law in which a municipality only needs 75 percent of an area’s land owners owning 75 percent of the land to agree to annexation.
Council members say that the properties could be subject to extensive development leading to flooding and traffic issues if they were to be annexed into North Charleston.
“Since Charleston honors an urban growth boundary, the difference in density and development would be significantly different if it remains in the City of Charleston,” Mayor Tecklenburg said during the meeting.
Bruce Miller, who owns the Millbrook property, said he’s been working with North Charleston since May before his property was officially annexed last month.
“If you vote yes, it will force us to file a lawsuit against the city of Charleston,” said Miller, who wants to host an event venue in the property.
Both Charleston and North Charleston are expected to finish battling this out in court.
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