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Charleston Co. leaders deny zoning change for medical plaza on Johns Island

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) – Charleston County leaders denied a rezoning request for a medical village on Johns Island that would have brought 14 buildings and a septic system to a currently undeveloped 17-acre plot.
The planning commission recommended denying the re-zone from low-density housing to commercial. The council voted 4-3 to deny the rezone.
Councilwoman Jenny Costa-Honeycutt said she met extensively with people in her district about the land through organized public hearings and meetings.
“The reason for my vote is I feel like there needs to be a buffer in that area,” Honeycutt said. “Quite frankly, my constituents were very much opposed. And so I leave the opportunity open for the applicant to go back and work with the community on something that may be more suitable. But at this point, the project as proposed was not suitable.”
The vote on the land sparked a larger discussion during Thursday night’s council meetings about how and where to decide changes in land use.
Councilman Teddy Pryor shared concerns about knowing what the majority of people want versus the vocal minority.
“If we are going to start allowing folks come in and, I won’t say bully us, but just come in and say we don’t want it, and then we take their word and say I want to vote for it because this is what the people say, then 526 would be down because of the folks that come out and say I don’t want 526,” Pryor said.
Pryor says the applicant went through the process and made some points about the 14-building medical village.
“I think the gentleman has scaled down the project and done some things but community members just don’t want anything. Or they want it but they don’t want it there,” Pryor said.
Pryor and Councilman Robert Wehrman voted against the denial saying they did each see a few perks to the re-zone.
“I do still think there are still some benefits to the project in terms of sort of the broader economy of off-island trips. I don’t necessarily disagree that traffic studies or current stormwater regulations may not always work,” Wehrman said. “I have some discomfort in picking and choosing when we say that and when we don’t.”
Councilman Henry Darby shared his misgivings about the situation as a whole.
“I have given my word to the community prior to speaking to the developer, and that’s where I’m conflicted as they did present some valid, valid perspectives as to why the development should be accepted by the community,” Darby said. “I grieve because I was told the developer spent over $4 million dollars and that’s a lot of money. I was also told they scaled down as low as possible. But because I gave my word that’s all I have to go by, and had I not given my word I may have taken a different tract. And I blame myself for not gathering all the facts as I should have.”
Darby continued to chastise the community for not supporting other, majority Black communities when those are faced with major changes saying he had thought about the people of Seabrook that he would hold for another time.
“I don’t like to be used by the affluent. I really don’t and when I say affluents, I mean affluent whites. It’s almost that they are only concerned about them and theirs. When we have a problem at 10-mile when we have a problem at Snowden we don’t see them,” Darby said.
At the very beginning of the discussion, Councilman Larry Kobrovsky made it clear he would vote to deny the change saying he is for the people.
“And I just ask us to be consistent in things like this with things in my district, with the 10-mile community when they had public comments and the people there felt just as strongly and 100 people came out and their way of life and what they love will be irrevocably changed with what we’re going to do the Historic Preservation Commission,” Kobrovsky said.
He asked that the sentiments other council members shared about the importance of taking in public hearing responses be applied to issues like the proposed changes to the Historic Preservation Commission and the County Tree Ordinance.
“What value public hearings have, they do play a role and I would ask on our other issue of the tree ordinance we reconsider and allow public hearings to continue,” Kobrovsky said.
Honeycutt said the conversation grew into something that shed light on how council members vote and gave a glimpse into the thoughts of the elected officials before the vote.
“I thought it was a healthy discussion,” Honeycutt said. “I was happy that we were able to put all that out there so that the constituents could kind of see and hear what different council members’ positions were, but you know, we’re just individual people like everybody else that you know, took up the challenge to serve an elected office and so we all come with certain perspectives and it was healthy to hear those perspectives.”
Copyright 2024 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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