[image-1]Charleston City Council voted Tuesday to agree to a settlement in the legal battle over the redevelopment of the Sgt. Jasper site.
Under the agreement, the city will agree to conceptual approval of a new project for the site, and in return, the developer will set aside nearby land for the construction of a waterfront park on St. Mary’s Field.
Last June, the city’s Board of Architectural Review denied the Beach Company’s plan to demolish the existing Sgt. Jasper building and construct a new 13-story tower in its place. Soon after, the Beach Company filed a circuit court appeal of the board’s ruling. Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson ordered the Beach Company into mediation along with representatives of the city, concerned neighborhood associations, and preservation groups. Peace talks between the groups ended at an impasse in April, at which point Judge Nicholson ruled that the BAR had overstepped its bounds in denying the Beach Company’s application. The city filed a request for the judge to reconsider his order on the basis that it could severely affect the BAR’s ability to evaluate future projects. As a part of the settlement, the BAR will be protected from any further court challenge, and the Beach Company will once again submit its redevelopment plans to the approval process.
After returning from executive session to receive a briefing on the Sgt. Jasper case, City Council voted 12-1 in favor of the agreement, with Councilman Mike Seekings providing the dissenting vote. Seekings argued that council had not been given enough time to examine the final court document outlining the settlement.
“This is the settlement of a major piece of litigation over the biggest development issue we’ve had in our lifetimes, and we’ve got a seven-page document that no one’s read and we’re voting on it,” said Seekings.
Councilman Dean Riegel argued that after all the public scrutiny and city examination, it was time to finally settle the dispute.
Ginny Bush, president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, was among several citizens who spoke out against the reported settlement during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. She argued that any such agreement would validate litigation as an alternative for developers hoping to gain approval for new projects. Many others who addressed City Council voiced their concerns that the decisions regarding Sgt. Jasper had been made behind closed doors.
Earlier in the week, Beach Company CEO John Darby released a statement on the settlement, saying that the developers are “grateful to the city for its efforts working together with us on a proposal that not only best fits the needs of Charleston, but also respects property rights and due process.”