Commission OKs new zoning for Cainhoy

By Liz Segrist
Published Feb. 11, 2014

The city of Charleston Planning Commission approved 6-1 new zoning for Cainhoy Plantation, while the majority of its members recognized many residents’ concerns with the proposed development.

The commission approved Thursday a planned unit development zoning for the Cainhoy Plantation. This zoning establishes some development regulations, including unit density requirements and heavy industry bans.

The plantation, which was annexed by the city in 1995, was previously zoned as “CY,” which essentially meant there were no restrictions on what could be built there.

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Planning Commission member Sunday Lempesis said under CY zoning, the development could be done any way that the owner desires. Lempesis said planned unit development zoning would “put in place something that’s so much better than what’s in place now.”

Commission member Elsie Davis-McFarland was the dissenting vote. At least 15 people spoke against the development during the meeting.

The owner, Peter Lawson-Johnston II, and the applicant, Thomas and Hutton, requested the rezoning. Lawson-Johnston II owns the land through his entities: Cainhoy Land & Timber LLC, Southern Timber LLC and Tract 7 LLC 3, according to city documents.

The commission’s role Thursday was not to approve the master plan, but rather to decide the zoning structure that will be used for master planning. Charleston City Council plans to discuss the development at tonight’s meeting.

“They could implement the master plan with the CY zoning they have now, which has no density limitation or building limitation,” Chief Planning Director Tim Keane said. “They have chosen instead to do PUD and present it for approval.’

Planning Commission Chair Frank McCann said he worried if the commission voted down the planned unit development zoning, the owner would go ahead with construction without public input.

Matt Sloan, president of The Daniel Island Co., represents the landowner. He has met with roughly 500 people to discuss the development. He said the planned unit development has more regulations but results in a higher quality development.

Sloan also said the development team wants a comprehensive plan and therefore requested zoning for the full 9,000 acres as opposed to developing it in sections.

The development has been contentious for many residents, historical groups and conservationists. Some critics say the plan doesn’t provide enough protection for the environment or undiscovered historical assets. Others say the plan is being rushed through city approvals. Many residents are concerned it will no longer be affordable to live there.

The landowners and developers have a plan to develop roughly half of the 9,000-acre plantation into a mixed-use community with residential neighborhoods, schools, business centers, commercial space, light industrial space and parks.

Sloan said the Cainhoy area is lacking in affordable housing, retail options, schools, super markets and parks. The developers and landowners plan to emulate Daniel Island when building out Cainhoy Plantation.

Some residents want to maintain Cainhoy’s natural aesthetic and are concerned residents won’t be able to afford housing after the development gets underway, said Fred Lincoln, a community activist and Cainhoy resident.

“Daniel Island is considered a success story. To me, it’s a horror story. There’s no diversity on Daniel Island ... and no facility for low-income ownership,” Lincoln said. “Our version of affordable housing is different than downtown Charleston or Daniel Island ... We want to create an environment for everybody to be able to enjoy some of that property.”

Conservationists and historical groups spoke about their concerns regarding the development and presented their alternative plan. Many are worried about historical assets being lost to development. Others said that the wildlife and long leaf pines will be harmed or that the natural character of the plantation will be too altered by the development’s density.

The city and developers have held public meetings over the past few months about Cainhoy Plantation. Public comments have influenced some of the plans, including the plan to create affordable housing in parts of the community by mixing low- and moderate-income housing with market rate housing.

Other changes include the elimination of an industrial zone along Cainhoy Road and instead using it for residential space and some commercial space. The plans also call for a wider buffer on Cainhoy Road and more preservation of historic buildings in the area.

Keane and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley stressed that this development will take decades to build out. Cainhoy Plantation currently has roughly 11,400 residents. The city estimates it will have roughly 40,000 residents by 2050 or 2060.

Planning Commission member Gordon Geer said the new planned unit development zoning is a framework for the beginning of a more specific planning process.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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