A lawsuit filed Friday contests construction plans around Gadsden Creek on the west side of the Charleston peninsula. The suit, filed by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) in state Administrative Law Court, is a formal objection to a permit issued by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) that would allow construction to move ahead on the WestEdge development, affecting about four acres of tidal creek wetland.
SCELP is representing the Friends of Gadsden Creek advocacy group in the proceedings.
“We are alarmed that the state agency charged with safeguarding our precious coastal tidelands issued a permit that allows for the complete destruction of a tidal creek so that slightly larger hotels, condos and office buildings can be built,” said Ben Cunningham, an SCELP attorney.
Historically, the area served as a working waterfront before it became a landfill, and much of the land that exists today built on top of unstable human-created land. A low-lying area along the Ashley River, flooding remains an issue in the immediate and surrounding areas, which includes the Gadsden Green housing complex. Developers say improvements in the area could remedy some of those issues, but activists say continued building only adds pressure to low-income communities nearby and could exacerbate flooding issues.
Early phases of the WestEdge project have already been completed, with the construction of apartments, shops and a Publix grocery store anchoring the complex at the corner of Spring Street and Lockwood Drive.
DHEC granted a Critical Area Permit and Water Quality and Coastal Zone Consistency certifications in July, paving the way for the project to move forward.
Michael Maher, CEO of WestEdge Foundation Inc., said the lawsuit does more than just delays the project.
“Of course we are disappointed, as the filing will delay works that will bring needed flooding and contamination relief to the Westside neighborhood,” he told the City Paper in an email Friday.
Cunningham called the reaction “more of the same from WestEdge,” and said the construction run afoul of high-profile plans to make the Charleston peninsula more resilient in the face of sea level rise and climate change.
The suit triggers an automatic stay on construction, according to Cunningham, while the case progresses through Administrative Law Court.