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Over the past several months there has been a lot of controversy surrounding proposed projects on the Sergeant Jasper site in downtown Charleston. Members of the community and various outside interest groups have expressed extreme opposition to the development in order to change current ordinances that allow the development as it is proposed. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce does not support changing the ordinance in order to block the developers from developing the property in compliance with current ordinance requirements.
What is the Planning Commission proposing to change and what’s the current status of the ordinance?
In short, the height regulation currently in controversy is called 3X zoning. 3X zoning allows buildings to be taller than regular height restrictions based on variances that the developer commits to, such as being farther away from the street. There are two locations on the Peninsula impacted by this zoning – the Sergeant Jasper site and the area around Marion Square.
At their meeting on May 18th, the Planning Commission passed a recommendation that would eliminate the 3X zoning at the remaining applicable sites and proposed a maximum height allowance of 55 feet. From here, the City Council will consider the recommendation at their next meeting.
What has led the Chamber to its position on the issue?
Regardless of the debate surrounding the current development proposal at the Sergeant Jasper site, the Chamber does not support local officials changing ordinances in the midst of pending developments that comply with current laws. While zoning laws are never permanent and are of course subject to change, it is important for developers to be able to trust the law when making major business decisions. The Sergeant Jasper site was intentionally left off of the amendments to the zoning laws on the Peninsula just a few years ago. Because of this, developers have relied on the ordinances as they currently stand and have spent vast amounts of time, money, and effort to propose their project. Changing the ordinance after plans have already been proposed results in unjust outcomes for businesses that have relied on the ordinances that were already in place. We ask you to join the Chamber in our position of asking local government to understand the need for regulatory certainty and to base decisions on fact, not emotion.
The Chamber supports the development process that exists under South Carolina law. If a developer, working with the local jurisdiction, proposes development that fits within the local jurisdiction’s comprehensive plans and long term vision, and follow the normal development approval processes, outside interest groups should not be allowed to block the development process without due cause.