Johns Island Community Plan and Code
The Johns Island Community Plan was adopted by the City of Charleston in November 2007 to address growth pressure and widespread concerns that without adequate land use and development regulations, the Island’s scenic roadways, pristine natural surroundings and agricultural heritage will be forever changed.
The purpose of the Johns Island Community Plan is to create a code that will protect the unique character of Johns Island while continuing to allow the island to grow. The Community Plan was a public planning process with the Johns Island community. During the week of March 5-10, 2007, over 350 Johns Island stakeholders (residents, property owners, business owners, government officials, utility representatives, etc) attended the charrette in order to plan for the future of the study area. The study area represents just 17% of Johns Island’s land uses, but represents the core of its “urbanized” area (area within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).
During the workshop, the project team realized that the current zoning and development pattern is not sensitive to the context of Johns Island. The majority of existing settlement patterns illustrate conventional suburban design, uniform distribution of density (repetitive lot types), lack of focus on architecture/public realm, “heavy on the land” infrastructure patterns that do not respect the ecology of Johns Island, zoning that focuses on use rather than form, as well as haphazard building placement. Thus, the City hired a planning firm to produce a SmartCode for Johns Island.
Many of the most-loved traditional towns of North America were deliberately and thoughtfully planned. Countless other cities, towns, and villages evolved as compact, walkable, mixed-use places, because of their geography and because of the limits of the economic and circumstances of their time. However, in our time, over the past sixty years, places have evolved in a completely different form. They have spread loosely along highways and haphazardly across once-open country, enabled by the widespread ownership of automobiles, cheap petroleum, and generalized wealth.
The SmartCode is a tool that guides the form of the built environment to resemble that of traditional neighborhoods, towns and villages. This form is compact, walkable, and mixed-use, and it is meant to be comfortable, safe, and ecologically sustainable. It allows a mix of uses within the neighborhood, so its residents don’t have to drive everywhere. It simultaneously preserves the form of urbanism and open lands.
On August 15, the Draft Johns Island Plan was presented to the Planning Commission. A month-long review period culminated with a public hearing at Planning Commission September 19, 2007 and Charleston City Council held another public hearing and approved the final version of the plan in November, 2007.