By Matt Tomsic
Published Sept. 20, 2012
Opponents expressed concerns about plans for a new cruise terminal on Union Pier Wednesday night during a public hearing hosted by an office of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for the project’s permit applications.
More than 75 people attended the hearing.
The office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management called for the hearing to gather public comments for the S.C. State Ports Authority’s permit application to modify Building 322 and build two covered staging areas that will handle passengers, luggage and ship suppliers. DHEC already held a hearing in April for the installation of five pilings that will support three elevators and two escalators.
“I think there can be a reasonable compromise, and we can make everybody happy.”
Rep. Chip Limehouse waded into the debate, saying he was there to speak as a state representative and a resident of Charleston.
“I can tell you when the cruise ships are in, it takes me quite some time to get to my home,” Limehouse said, referencing the traffic congestion that he and other opponents targeted.
Limehouse said the ships are full of people, but they don’t spend money downtown; he objects to so many people disembarking from the ships at once.
The ports authority should look at installing shore-side power so the cruise ships won’t have to run their engines while in port, and he called for more dialogue between the state’s lawmakers and stakeholders.
“I think the northern solution for the terminal is a reasonable approach,” Limehouse said. “I think there can be a reasonable compromise, and we can make everybody happy.”
Some residents and business leaders spoke in favor of the terminal, including Mary Graham, senior vice president for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Pam Zaresk, president of the Maritime Association of South Carolina.
Graham asked DHEC to approve the permit and said the chamber supports the renovations and plan that would move the cruise terminal farther north on Union Pier and redevelop an unused warehouse on port property. Graham said the cruise industry contributes more than $37 million each year to the Lowcountry’s economy.
Zaresk said the ports authority held many public meetings about the new cruise terminal and provided opportunities for discourse through the planning process. Also, she said the ports authority went through the city’s Board of Architectural Review to have the terminal’s design approved, a process that was voluntary.