Sunday, August 16, 2015 Blog

Pushing and pulling

by Dana Beach

Folks,

There’s been a lot of pushing this week and, fortunately, also some pushing back. In this article from the Post and Courier, Diane Knich reports that the Charleston Chamber of Commerce is now pushing another highway extension — this one the Glenn McConnell “Parkway” (which bears little resemblance to, say, the Blue Ridge Parkway). The Chamber feels this highway should plow through the Ashley River Historic Plantation District, skirt Summerville on the northwest and pop out on I-26 near Ridgeville. If this sounds like deja vu, it should.  This is the same “Outer Belt” that rears its head every few years, whose supporters envision it encircling the “Inner Belt,” I-526, and decanting on Highway 17 a few miles below McClellanville.

This congestion relief strategy, which we might call the “Atlanta solution,” has a low rate of success in other metropolitan areas. (Exactly zero, in fact.) In our case, as the Post and Courier editorializes, it also happens to desecrate one of the most historic places in North America, the home of Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place.  Fortunately, the Chamber’s appetite is much bigger than their (actually, our) budget. There is not enough funding to complete their other favored extension, I-526 to Johns Island, much less begin the Outer Loop.

All of this begs the question of why the Chamber seems so intent on promoting these diversions when the drivers of the region’s economy — the Port, Boeing, tourism and real estate development, not to mention much of the region’s existing workforce — all depend on improving a massively congested I-26, for which there is also not enough money.

If the specter of the Outer Loop were not enough, Dorchester County Council is considering removing zoning protection from a substantial part of the county’s Ashley River Historic Overlay District. As Myles Maland with the Conservation League says in this editorial from the Post and Courier, “Under this proposal, these areas would revert to Absence of Control zoning  (an oxymoron), which could pave the way for substantial increases in residential and commercial development in this pristine rural area.”  In other words, combined with the Outer Loop, a one-two punch to one of our most beloved landscapes.

On the north end of the coast, Myrtle Beach has become the 20th local government to oppose offshore drilling, as reported by Myrtle Beach Online.

And just in time because, as the Moultrie News reports, the Senate Energy Committee has passed legislation mandating (a step up from “allowing”) offshore drilling, and this time just 3 miles from land, vs. 50 miles under the Administration proposal. Incomprehensibly, Senator Tim Scott supports this end run around even the inadequate review process from the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, which is currently underway.

Bo Petersen, with the Post and Courier, explains that the seabird rookery at Bird Key Stono, on the south end of Folly Beach, is on the rebound this year, with double the number of pelicans as last season, along with a half dozen other species successfully nesting. Bird Key was destroyed by the previous Folly Beach renourishment project, (a point Bo fails to mention in the article.), but has reemerged over the past decade and a half.

And speaking of the eternal return, the Graves tract, a 113 acre property in Beaufort County on the Okatie River, is now safer, after a multi-year long effort to have it upzoned for intensive residential and commercial development.  The Beaufort County Council finally, after a period of excruciating indecision over whether it was legal NOT to upzone the property, decided that leaving well enough along was, indeed, legal.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this beautiful weekend.

Dana


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