Charleston City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to enact the city’s sweeping new comprehensive plan, centered on discouraging development in low-lying, flood-prone areas.
This elevation-based development plan is the first of its kind in the state and seeks to address the growing threat of climate change in the Lowcountry. South Carolina municipalities are required to develop a new comprehensive plan every 10 years.
“Generally speaking, we are very pleased with this plan, it’s clear that it’s taking a positive new direction, incorporating a lot of tough lessons learned over the last few decades,” Coastal Conservation League’s (CCL) communities and transportation senior project manager Betsy La Force said during a July 20 meeting, where the plan was given first reading.
Zoning changes like those outlined in the new plan were written to help the city avoid home buyouts and costly infrastructure improvements, a city spokesman said, citing millions spent in flood-prone home buyouts along Church Creek in West Ashley.
Areas highlighted for dense development in the city plan include:
- Upper King and Meeting streets on the peninsula
- Land along Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Bees Ferry Road in West Ashley
- Areas along Maybank Highway on James and Johns islands
- Properties near Interstate 526 and along Clements Ferry Road on Daniel Island and the Cainhoy Peninsula.
But not all developments in the highlighted areas will be the same, city officials said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the wholesale change you might see along Meeting and King streets downtown,” planning and sustainability director Christopher Morgan told the City Paper in August. “Meeting Street is on the bus rapid transit line, the most recommended project of that intensity. These are not key transit routes, the Maybank corridor, but they could be a good bus route.”
Other key components in the city plan include affordable housing unit development. City officials have spoken at length about the need for 16,000 new units by 2030 to meet demand based on population projections. Over the last 20 years, public and nonprofit entities in the city have worked to create or preserve an average of 94 affordable housing units per year, the plan states.
While the comprehensive plan itself doesn’t change laws or regulations, it is used to inform and guide lawmakers and leaders on future decisions. The full plan can be read at charlestoncityplan.com.