City hosting 2nd public tourism meeting

By Ashley Barker
Published June 9, 2014

The city of Charleston is planning a follow-up meeting for residents to continue sharing their concerns about how tourism should be managed in the Lowcountry.

The meeting will be open to the public and will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting St.

In April, the city held a tourism management forum so citizens could provide input on a plan being developed by an advisory committee appointed by Mayor Joe Riley.

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The committee, led by Historic Charleston Foundation CEO Katherine Robinson, consists of residents, neighborhood association representatives, preservationists and representatives of the business, education and tourism communities. Their job is to modernize the city’s Tourism Management Plan with the help of the Department of Planning, Preservation & Sustainability. The plan was most recently updated in 1998.

Members will develop recommendations to address the “critical and delicate balance between Charleston’s residential quality of life and the tourism economy while preserving Charleston’s authenticity and sense of place, especially its architectural and cultural heritage,” according to planning director Tim Keane.

The city received more than 200 comments during the April meeting relating to the addition of restrooms to the White Point Garden area near the Battery; the possibility of creating resident-only parking; a proposal to move the cruise ship terminal; and the addition of special-event regulations. Many neighborhood associations also submitted comments later.

The Charlestowne Neighborhood Association said its primary issues include enforcement of existing tourism ordinances; numbers of tourists and events; coordination among city departments; new ordinances needed; quiet enjoyment of residents’ homes; public restrooms; and cruise ships.

“Residents bear all of the burdens of tourism and gain few of the benefits,” a Charlestowne Neighborhood Association representative said in a May 13 letter addressed to the advisory committee. “They have, to date, willingly borne the brunt of the substantial increase in tourist numbers. They deserve some consideration for this civic engagement and support of the tourism industry.”

Susan Bass, president of the French Quarter Neighborhood Association Inc., said her community’s critical issues include traffic congestion resulting from motor coaches parking on Concord Street and exiting via Vendue Range and East Bay Street, as well as the number of tourism vehicles on the streets at any one time.

“The French Quarter is a tiny neighborhood compared with many others in our city, yet it is one of the most beautiful and historic,” Bass said in a letter to the advisory committee. “Our residents have proudly invested in this neighborhood and willingly share the neighborhood with theaters, restaurants, businesses, hotels and bars, and tourists.”

Bass said the substantial increase in tourists and their impact on parking, pollution and traffic congestion has caused the French Quarter to become “ever more fragile.”

Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association President Angela Drake had many of the same concerns.

“Walk in our shoes and see how we live day to day. Restoration of a healthy tourist-to-resident balance has reached a critical stage in the future of Charleston,” Drake wrote.

During the first meeting, Keane told residents that the city doesn’t want Charleston to become known as a party town. He showed an advertisement for Savannah in a Georgia magazine. It included a picture of folks sitting in a bar that drives around the city. The ad said “You call it a crazy night out. We call it Tuesday.”

“This is what we don’t want to have happen here in Charleston,” Keane said. “Charleston decided a long time ago that this is not anybody’s playground. It is not the party town. It is a place where people live and work, period.”

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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