Charleston planning boards take up various DI development projects
The City of Charleston’s Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Department was a hotbed of Daniel Island-related activity last week, as a trio of the City’s respective planning boards heard applications from developers seeking approval for projects slated for the island in future months.
A handful of potentially significant projects matriculated through the City’s development pipeline last week, and while the results were mixed, what remains clear is the only thing standing in the way of Daniel Island’s full build-out at this point is time.
On Tuesday of last week, the City’s Design and Review Board (DRB) vetted an application from engineering firm Little Diversified Architectural Consulting on behalf of the Publix Corp. to expand the Publix Supermarket in the Daniel Island Town Center, located between Island Park Drive and Seven Farms Drive.
The DRB reviews new construction, exterior alterations, and signage for commercial or non-residential projects where the property lies within City-designated development corridors, but the body’s larger purpose is “to establish a review process that will protect and improve the visual and aesthetic character and economic value” of development within the City of Charleston.”
The application requested the DRB’s approval for a renovation and expansion of the Publix facility, located at 162 Seven Farms Dr., into the greenspace adjacent and to the north of the current site. With the growth of the business will come a number of design changes, said Heather Nifong, project engineer for Little Diversified Architectural Consulting.
“As we expand towards Island Park Drive we have not only re-envisioned the facade but we’ve also readdressed the entry,” stated Nifong during her presentation. “(We have) several reasons (for that). The entry will now be right in line with the traffic circle (in the middle of the shopping center), and also for safety reasons, we didn’t want (the entry) to be too close to Island Park Drive with all the traffic and the turning lanes there.”
“Another thing we wanted to make sure of was that we could keep the store open during construction,” continued Nifong. “Therefore, there won’t be any downtime when the community of Daniel Island has no place to shop.”
When it was their turn to comment, the six-member DRB offered up a number of suggestions on how Nifong and her team could improve the design of the newfangled building. Their questions ranged from roof to roots, and in the end, as is often the case at this stage in the City’s planning process, Nifong was given a series of recommendations on how she could improve her application for a later re-submittal.
“This is a tough building,” said DRB Board Member Jeff Johnston. “It’s tough for a couple of reasons. One, how the original Publix was built it was built with a long brick wall that faces Island Park Drive because it was assumed there was going to be more outparcels on the front. Now we’re taking up a lot of the outparcel space and I don’t think we can have the same solution facing Island Park Drive as we did.”
“The second reason this is a tough site is you can see it from 526,” Johnston continued. “The problem with the facade is that it looks great from the front but from the back it looks like a western stage front.”
After a short debate, the DRB voted unanimously to defer the Publix application until a later date when the applicant could produce more information and respond to comments.
297 SEVEN FARMS DRIVE
A second project was slated to be heard on Tuesday at the DRB meeting - a request for the board’s conceptual approval for construction of a new three-story retail and office building to be located at 297 Seven Farms Dr., however, the City’s planning staff deferred the application so it could first appear before the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals for Site Design (BZA-SD) the following day.
The BZA-SD hears requests for zoning variances and special exceptions relating to site planning issues, specific requests concerning zoning requirements for tree protection, landscaping, parking lot design, and street design standards. In the case of the 297 Seven Farms Dr. project, the BZA-SD was needed to grant variances from the City’s grand tree ordinance to remove large, “grand” trees from the site.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6 the board heard an application submitted by the property owner, the Daniel Island Company, for a variance to remove three grand trees and to omit the City’s requirement for the project to maintain a standard of 15 protected trees per acre. A third component of the application, a request for a special exception to remove an additional three grand trees was withdrawn, as those trees were all graded “F” or failing trees.
The wet, wooded property is located between Orlando’s Pizza and the Church of the Holy Cross, and fronted by the undulating, winding sidewalk that runs along Seven Farms Drive. Of the three trees that remained to be dealt with after the special exception was withdrawn - two 37-inch Laurel Oaks and a 25-inch Laurel Oak - each has suffered damage to its crown, and one of the trees has additional issues at the base, reported Eric Schultz, Principal Planner for the City of Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals.
The City Planning Department’s staff recommended approval of the application, with three caveats: the developers were asked to compensate for the removal of the grand trees by planting a total of 74 inches of younger grand tree species, 18 inches of which the board mandated come from three six-inch trees. The board requested the developer surround the property with a four-foot chain-link fence, and additionally replace all the fallow trees removed from the property at a clip of one two-and-a-half-inch canopy tree planted for every two tallow trees removed.
With those stipulations written into the record, the BZA-SD voted to approve the variance application regarding the property at 297 Seven Farms Dr. in unanimity. The DRB will take up the project again at their September 18 meeting, when they are expected to consider a conceptual approval for the construction of the new building.
RHODEN ISLAND AND HOME2SUITES
The third meeting of the week relevant to Daniel Island was the meeting of the City Technical Review Committee (TRC), held the following day on Thursday, Sept. 7. The TRC, a body that consists of representatives from multiple city departments and divisions including: planning, zoning, traffic and transportation, fire, engineering/MS4, parks, ADA/legal and GIS/addressing, reviews site plans and subdivisions for compliance with City of Charleston codes.
Last Thursday, they were reviewing two Daniel Island projects - a proposed 28-unit subdivision slated for construction on Rhoden Island and construction plans for a project to introduce a new Home2Suites brand hotel at 160 Fairchild St., on the corner of Fairchild and River Landing Drive next to the former Islander restaurant.
Aside from a few comments related to the naming of one of the subdivision streets and the need for the applicant Earthsource Engineering and the project owner Giles Branch of Daniel Island Ventures III to interface with the South Carolina Department of Transportation related to the construction of a new crosswalk necessitated by the design of the project, the board passed the project on to the next step of their process.
The Home2Suites project too proceeded through the TRC’s vetting, but with considerably more difficulty. Earthsource’s Amie Hunt presented the project plan with gusto, but in the end the board was unanimous in demanding she and her team return at a later date with a number of additional documents they’d need to render a verdict.
For an updated schedule of meetings at the City of Charleston, see the city’s website at http://www.charleston-sc.gov/AgendaCenter.