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Community gives input into Cainhoy Plantation Project
By Elizabeth Bush
Jan 14, 2014 - 7:34:38 PM

Butch Skinner is concerned about gridlock traffic along Clements Ferry Road. Aaron Green feels more detailed information about what’s coming is needed. Bernard Shaw would like to see more public spaces for children to play and recreate. And Beverly Lahmeyer hopes that special attention is paid to the historic features of the land, such as the once thriving brick-making centers along the Wando River.
These four Cainhoy area residents, and about 200 others, took part in a two-day public “charette” January 8 and 9, hosted by the City of Charleston and the developers of the proposed Cainhoy Plantation Planned Unit Development (PUD), a project that is expected to bring some 20,000 new residents to the area over the next few decades.
The first gathering, an all day event, was held at the Keith School Museum on Clements Ferry Road, and the second took place at Cainhoy Elementary Middle School on Cainhoy Road. Those in attendance were clearly eager to learn more about how a 9,000 acre site at the heart of their community will be developed.
“It’s part of the urban footprint already,” said Tim Keane, director of the City of Charleston Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Department, at the Keith School Museum gathering. “We have built public infrastructure here in support of that development. All of the water and sewer utilities already exist here…The public has decided this is a place for building in our region, so we have to move past that issue and say, ‘What form will it take?’”
The property is owned by the family of the late Harry Frank Guggenheim, a renowned businessman and philanthropist who purchased some 15,000 acres on the Cainhoy Peninsula, including Daniel Island, beginning in the 1930s. Close to a third of the Guggenheim land has been sold off over the years. Of the remaining 9,000 acres, some 4,000 are protected wetlands, leaving approximately 5,000 acres for development. Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, who is representing the Guggenheim family’s interests on the project, called the property “a special and revered place.”
“It is a privilege to be able to take the property into the planning and development stages,” said Sloan, at the Cainhoy Elementary Middle School presentation. “The family did a very, very good job of setting forth the guiding principles of Daniel Island…The initial development (there) occurred under their watch…The plan you are going to see here tonight is largely based on those same tenants and guiding principles.”
Since the PUD was first discussed publicly last fall, Sloan and his team have provided tours of the parcel to a number of community groups, including the Historic Charleston Foundation and the Charleston Preservation Society, as well as area residents who have expressed an interest in learning more about the project. Plans call for a multifaceted development that will feature a mix of residential, commercial and light industrial areas, including an extensive trail system, river “villages” on both the Wando and Cooper Rivers, and a “community core” area that will offer a blend of uses.
“It does need to be a whole community, a place that really represents an outstanding place to live, and has all the aspects of the best communities brought together here,” explained Scott Parker of Design Works, the firm handling the development’s design.
The next step in the approval process for the PUD will occur at the City of Charleston Planning Commission meeting on January 29, when commissioners are expected to vote on a proposed zoning change for the property. Currently, it is has what is called “CY” zoning, which means there are almost no limitations on what can be built there. A 2.1 units per acre density cap was placed on the parcel in 2003. New zoning, if approved, would allow mixed use development similar to that found on Daniel Island today.
But many who gathered to listen to the presentations last week expressed concerns that the project is “too massive” and that it is “moving too fast.”
“There is something definite that is going to be presented before the Planning Board,” stated Fred Lincoln, a resident of the Jack Primus community and longtime Cainhoy area advocate. “So we can’t talk in terms of possibilities. We’re getting ready to vote on it. I am saying that with 9,000 acres, how can we do this in a matter of months?”
“There is basically no limitation on uses (now),” Keane responded. “They’re going from no specificity at all period, you just have this density (cap), to a greater level of specificity.”
Fine details, including specific subdivision plots, would be presented in phases at a later date as development progresses, added Keane. The area designated within the Cainhoy Plantation parcel for a planned new Berkeley County high school is expected to be considered in “phase one” of the project, along with the road that will be constructed to reach the site.
“We would be going past this general zoning plan, which basically lays out what the land uses would be and where the main streets would be conceptually…to a much more specific plan for phase one,” said Keane. “And that’s the point at which you’d be able to argue about specific layouts.”
Current traffic congestion on Clements Ferry Road, and the impact of the planned development, was a major topic of discussion at both sessions. A South Carolina Department of Transportation plan to widen the busy roadway is already in the works, with phase one (from I-526 to Jack Primus Road) set to begin in 2015. A second phase, which would extend from Jack Primus Road to Highway 41, has yet to be designed or scheduled.
“Shouldn’t the infrastructure start before this starts?” said Butch Skinner, who lives in Cainhoy Village. “If not, you’re going to cause a nightmare for all of us who live here.”
“I think one thing that the City of Charleston needs to work with Berkeley County on is moving phase two (of the Clements Ferry Road widening project) faster in light of what’s happening here,” said Keane.
Robert Gurley of the Charleston Preservation Society questioned developing a PUD “without adequate understanding of the cultural, historic resources in the area.” While several significant historic sites have been identified in early survey work, an intensive study of the area has not yet been done.
“It seems to be that the process is backwards,” said Gurley. “If you create a PUD that allows you to do certain things without understanding that you might be impacting historic resources that you don’t know about…that’s a concern.”
“All of the specificity that you want, that we want, will be achieved in terms of the archaeology and the historic survey work as this project unfolds,” said Keane.
Sloan added that now that the property has entered the development process, detailed studies will occur.
“It actually involves shovel testing,” he explained. “And it’s very, very extensive…Every 50 to 100 feet they dig down and look for artifacts that may be in the ground. If they find something then it becomes a more detailed study. Cultural resources are either determined to be eligible for entry in the National Register of Historic Places or not eligible.”
Several in attendance at the charettes asked that the developers allow long-time members of the community to help identify sites and provide details about areas of importance.
“The idea of gathering information from stakeholders in the community, from people who have family ties to the community, and putting together some sort of cultural resources report and body of work was an idea that came out of the charette,” said Sloan. “…It’s a very good one, and it’s something that we’re excited about and we look forward to working with community members on.”
Other suggestions gained from public input include providing opportunities for growth for neighboring communities, adding a commercial center at the intersection of Clements Ferry Road and Cainhoy Road, providing larger areas of open space, more consideration of wildlife habitats and environmental preservation, and creating a community center and parks for those who live in or near the proposed new development to enjoy.
City Councilman Gary White, whose jurisdiction includes Daniel Island and much of the Cainhoy Peninsula, commended community members for their involvement in the project. He estimated that some 500 people have been actively participating in meetings on the development since it was first announced last October.
“There has been more active engagement from the community on this development than any other project I have been a part of since I have been on City Council,” he said. “…I think it’s great that we’re getting this level of participation, because it always insures that we end up with a better outcome.”
As far as the timing of the project, White urged citizens to keep in mind that this is only the start of a decades-long process.
“There is this fear out there that the entire property from soup to nuts is going to be approved and that’s not really where we are at,” he added. “This is an important decision. I am not trying to say that it’s not. This does lay the groundwork and set the tone for the overall development….but it shouldn’t be considered the end all, be all.”

1935 — Harry Frank Guggenheim purchases 10,000 acres on the Cainhoy Peninsula (over the next 20 years, he purchases another 5,000 acres on Daniel Island).
1971 — Upon his death, Guggenheim passes the Cainhoy Plantation Property to his cousin, Peter O. Lawson-Johnston. The property is placed in a family trust for the duration of Lawson-Johnston’s lifetime, after which it is to revert back to the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
1993 — I-526 completed.
1991-1995 — Property annexed into the City of Charleston. No density limitations.
1996 — Current (CY) zoning established.
1997 — Charleston Regional Business Park is started off Clements Ferry Road.
2003 — A year-long negotiation on density is prompted by the development of The Peninsula and Nelliefield subdivisions off Clements Ferry Road, resulting in a new density cap for the Cainhoy Plantation parcel of 2.1units per acre.
2006 — Water and sewer lines are completed.
2009 — City of Charleston Mayor Joe Riley contacts the Lawson-Johnston family to inquire if there are any places within the Cainhoy Plantation site that might be suitable for a new Berkeley County high school to serve Daniel Island and Cainhoy area students.
2013 — The Cainhoy Plantation Planned Unit Development (PUD) is officially proposed in October. A public meeting is held for members of the Cainhoy community to get a first look at the project. The PUD is also discussed at two City of Charleston Planning Commission meetings. Development of a new high school site, to be located adjacent to the Nelliefield subdivision, is identified as the first phase of the project.
2014 — A two-day public “charette” is hosted by the City of Charleston and developers of the project.

By the numbers…
Daniel Island, Thomas Island and Cainhoy Peninsula

    11,400 — present population
    40,000 — projected population
       (after development of Cainhoy Plantation property)
    38,000 — present population of James Island

What’s next?

City of Charleston Planning Commission Meeting
Wednesday, January 29 • 5 pm
75 Calhoun Street, Charleston

This meeting of the City Planning Commission will focus only on the Cainhoy Plantation Planned Unit Development. They will vote on the proposed zoning changes for the 9,000 acre parcel. If approved, the zoning change will then move to Charleston City Council for consideration and, ultimately, a vote.

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