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Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

Apologies for the lack of any pretty Suzanne photograph.

I don’t think the proposed extension of I-526 from it’s current terminating point along Savannah Highway in West Ashley to the terminating point of the James Island Connector is news to anyone around here.  The extension has been in the works, in typical DOT fashion, for a few decades.  When first proposed, the project closely mirrored a myriad of similar publicly funded road projects that centered around one sole purpose:  move cars and move them quickly.  This idea had the half-intended effect of creating new development along it’s transverse, development which at the time was considered “good” because it succeeded in manufacturing “growth” both economically and physically, as in the actual manifestation of built environment in a time when more meant better.  That growth paradigm had its critics then but it has an army of them now.

The Coastal Conservation League has been at the forefront of the anti-extension debate for some time now, another fact that won’t shock anyone around here.  The CCL has garnered its own array of criticisms over the past few years, with most of them revolving around what some consider to be an almost fantastical zealotism towards certain issues that results in impracticality, a sentiment I have heard numerous times from even proponents of the organization.  I have hands-on experience both working with, and, seemingly, against CCL on a variety of projects in other locales and it has been my determination that the group is a very talented corps of individuals whose fervent passion for the issues at hand sometimes impedes upon their ability to effectively educate politicians, businessmen, and the public on the right way to approach projects (and I do believe their way, in general, is the right way).  This is especially true when they begin to assert their opinion on a project when, in political actuality, the project has set sail.  Their adversarial tendencies are both their biggest asset and their biggest Achilles’ heel. That being said, I am an avid supporter of most CCL efforts (they are, after all, listed in our sidebar on this site) and have definitely experienced a pull of the conscience when presenting projects favorably to a governing body when in fact I agreed whole-heartedly with the arguments pronounced minutes earlier by a CCL representative.

With the 526 extension alternative proposal, CCL is at their outspoken and outreach-able best (linked here from The Digitel), providing the blueprint for a successful James Island/West Ashley/Johns Island future constructed around traditional village-scale density development through interconnectivity and environmental stewardship, while pointing out evident fallacies in the 526 “solution” as currently proposed through DOT.

Personally, my opposition to the extension is more about the feeling of place and physical breaks/obstructions than traffic congestion.  The extension will help ease congestion.  That is a given.  Opponents will say that within a short period of time, the roadway will ‘fail’, a status designation that is subjective at best and is built around standards of mobility that are obsolete, although an extension won’t be the saving grace many assume.  Suburban development vs. traditional village-scale node development can be achieved through the charrette/code revision process.  Reappropriations of allowable densities and community form can help alleviate bottlenecks and retain or alter existing rural/transitional character on within the project scope.  But constructing a raised, archaic highway structure, or even parkway along the Stono River on John’s Island in what I believe to be a misuse of public funds is something I can’t bear to see occur.  Johns Island is very near and dear to my heart and the thought of such an obstruction literally ruining the Stono River vista is enough to create a war-cry against the proposed route for me. Maybe I have an antiquated preference on the way a Lowcountry river vista should look and function. Regardless, I will stand on the side of aesthetics over convenience any day.  That’s just what is important to me.

My issues with the DOT proposal, in much more technical enumerations, are already in the hands of those with the ability to decide upon and/or fight the extension.  A presentation on alternatives will be held at the Lonnie Hamilton Public Services Building in North Charleston at 10 AM tomorrow and public hearings are forthcoming in August and September.  As always, please make your voice count, either favorably or unfavorably.  I may have my own opinion on an issue but I will for a fact always promote educated, impassioned differing positions in respect for the totality of public participation.

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After dealing intimately with municipal and county councils, citizen activist and advisory groups, and other special interest committees for the past 5 years, you become accustomed to double talk. To be fair, it’s not exactly an easy situation, though voluntary, to put yourself in when you are eventually elected or appointed to a position in which your decisions or indecisions directly affect the livelihood or quality of life of your neighbors. Its true that most detractors within the realm of local politics have little or no tangible experience in or earthly idea of anything that would be constituted as “leadership and responsibility” at a magnitude of a commission or elected body.

That being the case, Charleston City Council’s consideration of changes to its existing bicycle ordinance to impose stricter regulations on parking bikes, including the location and length of time, seems awfully premature considering the City’s past two years of diligently promoting the use bicycles over automobiles, especially in light of the fact that Council has openly acknowledged the severity of the shortage of acceptable parking facilities city-wide.  But consider it they will, and they should, as all councils everywhere must consider a multitude of propositions and changes to civic ordinance structure ranging from appropriate to outlandish.  The juxtaposition here, however, between a previously prominent agenda that was pro-bicycle and a new push to further regulate parking of bicycles in a parking deficient city is very pronounced and should be approached carefully.

I completely understand the desire to reduce or eliminate private property impediments that all too frequently become fixtures within public rights-of-way and their legal encroachment structures.  The effective duty of enforcement is imperative to maintain the functionality of intended purpose within these deeded or restricted parts of the public realm.  I just question the timing.  Hopefully, should the regulations receive final reading and be placed within the bounds of this city’s ordinance law, enactment occurs following at least a small proliferation in the number and, importantly, accessibility of legal parking facilities.  A promise to “look into it” or “provide a program in the future” won’t cut it this time around for the hundreds of people who already enthusiastically abided by and approved of the previous priority.

If this issue is important to you, write your Councilman.  Attend the meetings and hearings.  Be respectful, be succinct.  Don’t lambast with emotional inaccuracies, threats, or generalizations.  Present your argument and let Council hear your voice in a rational manner.  Participate in the discussion.

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