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Archive for the ‘smart growth’ 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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Sunday was one of those days that just screamed “summer is coming”, with a warm breeze blowing out of the south that created a swirling rush of cumulus clouds above and a soupy mess of humidity below.  It’s kind of pathetic that it already felt like it was time to beat the heat, but oh well.  I resigned myself to being a sissy years ago.  So, in lieu of fanning ourselves with magazines and stating, matter-of factly and with a drawl, “warm out today….warm yesterday….even warmer today…”, we took off out of the city towards Kiawah/Seabrook Islands and spent an afternoon carousing around Freshfields Village.

Freshfields is a compact, walkable commercial center that currently serves as Kiawah/Seabrook/southern John’s Island’s more aesthetically gifted and more environmentally friendly version of your typical island getaway one-stop-shop.  It is a fairly odd experience traveling down that long stretch of Bohicket Road under a breathtaking canopy of live oaks, surrounded by the hallmarks of backroads South Carolina, and emerging from that shady lane to peer upon what essentially reminds one of a resident-less Seaside.  The shift is actually almost startling to the senses.  There is no doubt that the project was planned with the anticipation of further growth in the southern Johns Island area (which, when growth occurs, hopefully follows faithfully to ideas in the John’s Island Smart Code).  I won’t go into too many boring details about how great this project could be within the framework of studied density nodes which would place residential components within the village while allowing the serene approach to remain truly rural, but what I will say is, for at least this phase, Freshfields is a pretty cool little project.  It would be the perfect commercial core support node for that village in the movie Big Fish.  It boasts a variety staples for village centers that, when combined, work quite well in developing a sense of place, including artisan shops, small boutique shops, mom-and-pop restaurants, professional offices, an ice cream shop, and a sporting goods store, among others.

Our favorites?  Suzanne was thrilled to take in the old-fashioned soda bar in the quaint Vincent’s Pharmacy, while I was partial to the neighborhood-scale Newton Farms grocery store, complete with its own large gardening section and specialty brands of just about any type of product you could ever want.

But the best part of Freshfields, and the impetus for our trip, is the diverse collection of structures, born out of unique perspectives on old village themes of the past and constructed with familiar Carolina Lowcountry materials.  The place is just full of vibrant colors, providing a nice backdrop for a developing photographer to hone his/her skills.

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