Debate swirls around restrooms at White Point Gardens

By Ashley Barker
Published April 16, 2014

Restroom facilities at White Point Gardens and the Battery area of downtown Charleston are a top concern among residents.

The city of Charleston held a tourism management forum earlier this month to gather input from residents on how to update the Tourism Management Plan. Residents were asked to write down questions and concerns on index cards so an advisory committee could determine which issues to address.

Information submitted to the committee was released this week, and a strong emphasis was on the restroom facilities.

“Why does the city feel that it is necessary to provide toilets in private neighborhoods?” one resident asked.

Another wrote, “Can we have bathrooms in the White Point Gardens area?”

A resident also questioned whether public restrooms could be built underground at White Point Gardens.

“There could be a few steps down with no appreciable visible impairment above ground. This, of course, would depend on the water table,” the resident wrote.

One wrote that the residential area south of Broad Street is “not Disney World” and said the city should put signs and note in flyers that south of Broad Street is a residential area with no public restrooms.

“How many of this panel have public restrooms in their neighborhood, near their house?” the resident wrote.

Another resident suggested cleaning the city’s current restrooms before adding new ones.

“The city needs to be vigilant at keeping present ones clean. The Waterfront Park-Vendue Range bathrooms are very often nasty,” one person wrote.

Enlarging the restroom facilities at Hazel Parker Park and purchasing portable restrooms for prime tour times south of Broad Street were also suggested.

“To be a world travel highly rated city, we are seriously lacking restroom facilities,” a resident wrote.

Vanessa Turner Maybank, director of tourism services, said Mayor Joseph Riley commissioned a restroom task force a few years ago.

“There were conversations with the Fort Sumter House about the city working with them to put restrooms there. There also was research done to look at the restrooms that were at the bandstand at White Point Garden,” Maybank said. “When they looked at the sewer systems of the older restrooms, they would have had to really build above grade, and it would have been something that would not have been conducive to that area.”

Charleston Planning Director Tim Keane said the city agrees that restrooms are needed in that area.

“There’s no other issue other than where are we going to put them? It sounds easy, but it’s tricky,” Keane said.

Other concerns among residents

Some residents suggested that Charleston has too many festivals and parades that include street closures at the same time, specifically around Marion Square.

A resident included the number of events as an issue that must be addressed because it ties into the “delicate balance between livability and tax base.”

Parking for residents and tourists was also a topic written about multiple times.

Some suggested creating parking spaces off the peninsula and incorporating a bus system that would transport visitors downtown. While another said to ban motorcycles south of Broad Street and only allow residential vehicles in that area.

“We badly need restricted parking for residents only on East Bay Street and South Battery Street,” a resident wrote.

Cruise ship regulations were suggested as well.

A resident said the city should limit the number of ships allowed to dock per year and per day while also enforcing a noise ordinance.

“What is the feasibility of moving the cruise terminal to Columbus Street?” a resident asked. Another wrote, “Is it possible to open Concord Street when the Carnival ship is loading and unloading?”

Residents specifically asked for the city to require cruise ships to use shoreside power, to provide access to pollution logs, to limit ships to no larger than 3,500 passengers and to not allow more than 104 ships to dock in Charleston each year.

“Plans are important, but they are meaningless without enforcement,” a resident wrote.

The next public meeting to discuss the Tourism Management Plan update is scheduled for 6 p.m., June 12 in the auditorium at the Charleston Museum. Recommendations to address the city’s tourism economy are expected to be finalized around the end of the year.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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