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John’s Island officials have come together to plan the future in regard to growth and development on the Island. David Slade’s article entitled, “Big Plans for Johns Island” in the Post and Courier (2/28/07) explains it well:

“As Johns Island increasingly becomes a hotbed of suburban growth, Charleston is pressing ahead to create regulations that would treat the huge sea island as a unique part of the city, with different rules for development.

While most of Johns Island is outside the city limits, the part inside what’s called the Urban Growth Boundary is largely within Charleston and is the focus a series of public workshops that start March 5.

“What you will see the week of March 5 to 9 is the city’s totally new approach to planning,” said Councilwoman Anne Frances Bleecker, who represents the parts of Johns Island within the city. “What you do on Johns Island will be separate, and protected by ordinance.”

As the city works on a plan for Johns Island, construction crews are working on hundreds of houses and townhomes.

The sounds of hammers and heavy equipment echo through the woods off Maybank Highway, along with Brownswood, Murraywood and River roads.

The city’s top planning officials have plenty of ideas about what would be

good or bad for Johns Island, but they say finding out what current residents want will play a crucial role in the plan. It’s not just about residential growth, but about businesses and finding ways for people to live and work on the island.

“To me, a lot of Johns Island just screams ‘artist colony,’?” said Josh Martin, director of Charleston’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Economic Innovation. “What if you had organic farming uses that would support a true farmers market downtown?”

Last week, the city mailed about 3,600 postcards inviting Johns Island residents to attend the upcoming workshops, where the city’s planning concepts will be up for review and discussion.

The workshop will build on the work of the Johns Island Growth Management Committee, a group of residents and elected officials meeting since 2005.

“We are to the point where we can do this, because we spent the past two years meetings with all the players,” Bleecker said.

At the workshop, concepts such as interconnected subdivisions, densely built “gathering place” zones on Maybank Highway, pedestrian and bike paths, and standards for design and appearance, including what Martin calls “gas-backwards,” will be on the table.

Gas-backwards is the idea that filling stations would look more attractive if the gas pumps were behind the buildings.

While many of the concepts follow planning themes that run through other Charleston suburbs, particularly Daniel Island, planners agree that special attention must be paid to maintaining the rural feel of Johns Island.

The island also poses unique planning challenges, such as:

–How to ease traffic problems caused by growth without ruining the scenic nature of the two-lane, tree-canopied roads on Johns Island. Maybank Highway, for example, is slated for widening from the Stono River to the intersection with Main and Bohicket roads.

–Crafting development rules for the narrow but very long parcels known as “bowling alley lots” that line Maybank Highway and other main roads.

–Planning for the expected extension of Interstate 526, which the city supports.

–Reducing road kill in the wildlife-rich area.

“This will be a week of putting plans up on the wall,” Martin said. “It’s all open for discussion.”

All, that is, except for the idea that development can be halted.

“There are going to be people who come to the workshops who don’t want any development, and that’s beyond the realm of what we can accomplish,” said Christopher Morgan, director of Charleston’s Planning Division.

All zoning allows some development, and developers have resisted limits on growth. Some Johns Island developers who opposed the county’s Unified Development Ordinance helped found the S.C. Landowners Association, which has been lobbying for a state law aimed at forcing municipalities to compensate landowners for zoning rules that limit development.

Charleston has used its regulatory powers recently to block some development on Johns Island. Last year, the city down-zoned a 462-acre property at River and Plow Ground roads several weeks after a developer revealed plans for perhaps 800 homes there. The city reacted to the development plan, which hadn’t been formally submitted, by unexpectedly changing the zoning of the property so no more than one home per acre could be built, instead of five per acre as the prior zoning allowed.

Zoning and planning have been topics of discussion on Johns Island since at least the 1950s, when the first modern bridges to Johns Island and Kiawah Island were built.

The need for planning intensified with the residential development of Seabrook and Kiawah islands in the 1970s, and a change in septic regulations in the mid-1980s that expanded the potential for development on Johns Island.

Charleston and Charleston County passed a joint land-use plan in 1988 for Johns Island and updated it in 1995. In 2000, the county adopted its Unified Development Ordinance, which put tough limits on rural development.

Although there’s much left to do, Bleecker made this prediction during a tour of the island: “It’s going to be the most beautiful place to live in the city of Charleston.”

If you go

The Johns Island community planning workshop will be held in the Berkeley Electric Cooperative meeting room, 3351 Maybank Highway. A kick-off presentation will be March 5 at 5:30 p.m.

The workshop space will be open and staffed at these times:

–Monday, March 5: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with a presentation starting at 5:30 p.m.

–Tuesday, March 6: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

–Wednesday, March 7: 1-7 p.m.

–Thursday, March 8: 1-7 p.m.

–Friday, March 9: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

–Saturday, March 10: Final presentation scheduled at 10 a.m.

For more information contact Christopher Morgan, director of Charleston’s Planning Division, at 724-3774, or morganc@ci.charleston.sc.us.”

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