DI real estate agent helps shape city growth and preservation
As an award-winning real estate agent, Angie Johnson clearly knows how to find the perfect "home sweet home" for her clients (her residential real estate sales at the Daniel Island Real Estate Company topped more than $27 million in 2005). Of course, it's easy to market a community you feel passionately about.
"I love this place!" she proudly proclaims on her real estate blog site.
But for the last 18 months, she's been putting her marketing knowledge and affection for her city of residence to another good use. In June of 2008, Johnson became the first Daniel Island resident to be appointed by Mayor Joe Riley to the City of Charleston Planning Commission. Johnson, who holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Clemson University and a master's degree from University of South Carolina, considered the offer carefully before deciding to accept.
"I had a lot on my plate at that point," said Johnson, who resides with husband, Chad, and their three young sons in Daniel Island's Smythe Park. "But I felt like it would be great to have a say in shaping the city that my children are going to grow up in. Obviously Daniel Island is important, but I think to the nine members on the commission, it's just much more about our city, and that's what really spoke to me."
Johnson moved to Daniel Island from her hometown of Spartanburg in 2001 and has been with Daniel Island Real Estate since 2003. In addition to her real estate duties (she's also currently the vice president of government affairs for Charleston Trident Association of Realtors), Johnson attends monthly Planning Commission meetings to review and consider all proposed commercial and residential developments, as well as city zoning issues. The commission, which has been in place in the City of Charleston since the late 1960's, makes recommendations to City Council as to whether or not specific plans should be approved.
"(The commission has) a considerable history," explained Tim Keane, the city's director of planning, preservation and sustainability. "It's a unique board in the sense that it is the citizen board that reviews and creates plans for the city's growth and development."
The importance of the commission's work is certainly not lost on Johnson.
"I live here," she said. "It's very important to me. I'm not going anywhere. Regardless of whether I am a real estate agent or a stay-at-home mom, I want my community to be the best it can be."
That motivation clearly inspires Johnson to give every project the consideration it deserves.
"I'm in real estate, I'm very pro-development," she said. "But I also feel there are places and areas where it's not appropriate. There are times when I haven't voted for that because it's not the right thing for that area."
Oftentimes going the extra mile, quite literally, gives Johnson a unique perspective. She will frequently drive out to a site to get a feel for how a proposed project will impact a community.
"I feel that it's our job as a board to preserve the character of Charleston," she said.
When a project is contested by members of the public, who are invited to voice their opinions at commission meetings, compromise is often the end result. Johnson recalled a recent proposal for a new hotel at the corner of Calhoun and East Bay Streets in downtown Charleston.
"It was super controversial," said Johnson. "It is a great idea for that part of the city, really nice, but people came out in droves to express their concerns. It was really neat to see how the city listened to what the citizens had to say and took their concerns to heart when revising the plans. It was a good compromise."
In the coming months, Daniel Island's port-owned land will likely come to the commission's table for discussion. The property is currently zoned for port use, but now that the 495 acre parcel will soon be placed on the market for sale, presumably for residential use, that designation will ultimately need to change before any new non-port development can occur.
"There are so many intricate pieces to that puzzle," said Johnson, referencing the island's port land. "I'm really interested to see what happens. It hasn't really been discussed. Rezoning does come before us, but I would anticipate that when a developer purchases the land there will probably be a contingency to rezone the land."
"That is a Planning Commission issue," added Keane. "How should that area of the city grow and what kind of zoning and other regulations should be in place to manage that growth? Those kinds of fundamental growth issues are the ones the Planning Commission needs to spend its time on. They would be the first public board to weigh in on that."
Interestingly, the zoning and development plans that laid the foundation for Daniel Island's present day community came before this very board some 18 years ago for approval. Having Johnson on the commission ensures that Daniel Island maintains a seat at the table on all matters relating to future city development.
"The board has been composed of a real cross-section of people in terms of geographic representation," said Keane. "It's a really important aspect of the evolution of our planning to have representatives from Berkeley County on our board. To have a Berkeley County and Daniel Island set of eyes on everything, we have to have that."
Almost halfway through her four year-term, Johnson is grateful for the opportunity to serve. So far, the experience has given her an even greater appreciation for the city she calls home.
"I just think it is so eye-opening that every little detail has been planned out," said Johnson of the work the commission puts forth on an on-going basis. "This level of planning is why Charleston is so beautiful. To have some sort of input into what our city is going to look like in the future is just awesome."
For an inside look at the city's "Century V Plan," a working document that serves as a roadmap for future growth, visit the city's Web site at www.charlestoncity.info.