DINA 411: Daniel Island Moves Closer to Upgraded Intersection, New Park Prospects
At the call to order of the September 8 meeting of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association (DINA), available seating was scant. Leadership had apparently successfully marketed a noteworthy evening, with hot-button topics on the table and some elected heavy-hitters serving as speakers.
But first, some committee updates…
DINA president Glenn Williman kicked off the meeting by delivering a traffic and safety update. He reminded the group that the most effective way of submitting a traffic- or safety-related issue or request is by using the project request form available on the association’s website (dineighborhoodassociation.org). Proper submission of these forms has already resulted in numerous changes around the island, including restriping on Seven Farms Drive, as well as several crosswalks and parking spaces. “No parking” triangles will also be installed at Pierce and Smythe Streets, in addition to a speed bump on Blakeway Street.
Land Use and Zoning committee chair Clyde Rush addressed the group, reporting that in the last two weeks alone, the City’s Technical Review Committee has reviewed 114 new home construction projects, a testament to the large volume of activity on Daniel Island. Rush also told the group that four “islands within the island” will be rezoned, changing from a Daniel Island Residential designation to that of Daniel Island Residential Island. The primary difference between the two zoning categories is an increase in the maximum height of construction on the inner island properties, allowing for homes in these areas to be built up higher due to flood considerations.
…And an informative police briefing
Team 5 Commander Lt. James Byrne spoke briefly about the primary concerns on Daniel Island. Number one is bicycle theft, though the frequency discussed on social media seems to outpace the number actually reported. Lt. Byrne indicated that, for 2015, there have been 12 bikes reported stolen. He reminded the group that the best way to protect a bike is with a lock, and the best way to track a bike is to get it registered. A registration sticker costs just $1, and can be obtained at the Team 5 station or at the upcoming Bike Safety Bonanza at Daniel Island School on October 18. “Oftentimes we find bikes, just abandoned,” explained Lt. Byrne. “It’s a lot easier to get the bikes back to their rightful owners if they have a registration sticker on them.” He also commented that, of the three golf carts reported stolen this year, two have been recovered.
As for property theft, the commander told the group that the last couple of thefts from cars have involved firearms being stolen. “I can’t figure out why people keep firearms in their vehicles and don’t secure them,” said Lt. Byrne. “Please, if you have a firearm, keep it secure, keep it away from children, keep it from getting into the bad guys’ hands.”
He also indicated that recent thefts from buildings have not involved break-ins because they have been perpetrated by people who have legitimate access to the home or office, such as cleaning services or contract workers. As two final notes, he reported that the City is looking into complaints about – and ways to abate – noise from concerts at Family Circle Cup, and that the consolidated dispatch number has changed to 742-7200.
Councilman Whitley introduces vital intersection revisions
Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley, accompanied by Berkeley County Engineer Carla Harvey, was next to the podium to address proposed improvements to the historically perilous intersection of Seven Farms Drive and Daniel Island Drive. The original plan – to add a turn lane on Daniel Island Drive in front of Daniel Island Academy at a cost of around $200,000 – had essentially been scrapped for a new proposal with a broader scope. The alternate plan, which would come with a price tag of more than $700,000, would include adding a right turn lane on Seven Farms Drive in front of Providence Baptist Church as well as a dedicated left turn lane on Daniel Island Drive in front of Daniel Island Academy, and re-aligning the intersection to alleviate obstruction from the treed median.
“Traffic counts showed that this is a congested intersection… it’s graded at an ‘E.’ If this model is approved, it would go to a ‘B,’” Whitley explained. “’E’ is a problem, ‘B’ is a free-flowing, well-designed intersection.”
If the revised plan moves forward, it would eliminate 15 parking spaces on Seven Farms Drive, primarily used for parking at the two churches. Improvement of the intersection is a listed project on the penny sales tax referendum passed last fall, and construction could start as soon as late spring 2016 with completion targeted for early fall 2016. Residents can view the proposed changes on the DINA website (dicommunity.org) and provide feedback. Harvey also indicated that her team would look into tweaking the timing of the traffic light at the intersection of River Landing Drive and Seven Farms Drive to alleviate the escalating backup during rush hour times.
Rep. Merrill and Sen. Grooms run down
SPA land transfer
Addressing the crowd on the recent transfer of land from the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT) were state Senator Larry Grooms and state Representative Jim Merrill, chair and co-chair, respectively, of the oversight board for the SCPA and longtime opponents of a Daniel Island-based terminal. The two played a critical role in passing legislation to deny the SCPA the right to build such a facility, rendering the land useful to the SCPA only for dredging… and spraying for mosquitoes.
“But legislation can change,” cautioned Sen. Grooms. “We may not be there someday, and someone else could step in. It’s very difficult for some people in other parts of the state to understand that the port is not only a great economic asset; there’s also a quality of life issue that they don’t see.”
Spoil cells for dredge material will remain on 900 of the 1,300 acres of SCPA-owned land to accommodate Charleston’s 52-feet harbor deepening project. And Sen. Grooms and Rep. Merrill are working with the Ports Authority to obtain regulatory permission to utilize another portion of the property for a creek restoration and saltwater mitigation bank. But it’s a 50-acre parcel that has gotten the attention of Daniel Island residents, heralded by the two state officials as a “win-win-win.”
The 99-year lease agreement transfers a portion of land near the Cooper River to the PRT, a strategic move championed by Rep. Merrill. “The Global Gateway (container terminal project) was untenable, for so many reasons,” he stated. “To put the largest terminal on the eastern seaboard there without the infrastructure and without any concern for quality of life just wasn’t acceptable.”
The project was halted, and moved to the Navy Base where rail already existed, and the Daniel Island land was earmarked for what turned out to be a much-needed dredge disposal site. And then, just announced last month, the transfer of a key 50-acre parcel to the state PRT was a strategic move to cut off the SCPA’s access in a move to safeguard the Daniel Island land from a future risk of terminal construction.
There are two roads that can access the area – Pierce Street and Seven Farms Drive – but the exact route to what will eventually become recreation land will depend upon the ultimate configuration of the parcel. Rep. Merrill indicated that, ideally, the land would be developed into some “active” recreation space, such as ball fields, as well as “passive” recreation opportunity, like hiking trails.
The priority was to get the 50 acres into the hands of the PRT, then transfer it to the most appropriate government authority for development. Rep. Merrill conceded it is too small a parcel to become a state park, but it could potentially be transferred to another entity, such as the City of Charleston, or even the Daniel Island Community Fund.
“There’s a tremendous interest from several government entities in seeing this project succeed,” replied Sen. Grooms. “And we’ll continue to have those discussions as we work with our working group of the Corps of Engineers over what the boundaries are and what’s possible. And then once we determine what can happen, then we’ll find the right governmental entity that will backfill and actually operate it.”
One resident took issue with the fact that Berkeley County would not be a likely contender for development of the project since it does not have a department of recreation. “Maybe it’s time for Berkeley County to start a rec department and have this be their first ‘shining star’ for county parks,” she suggested.
Regarding the logic behind transferring the land as a lease versus an outright purchase, Sen. Grooms indicated it had to do with regulations surrounding subdivision of property, and if there had been a deed transfer, the City of Charleston would have had to have meetings to approve a subdivision. This would have delayed the transfer, perhaps several more years.
Though there are still considerable high-level and detailed questions to be resolved, concluded Sen. Grooms: “For today we celebrate that the access has been completely cut off.”
Final important tidbits
Touching on the Daniel Island public boat landing project, Sen. Grooms indicated that the amenity could be finished in as soon as one year. According to the state senator, the funding is in place for the project and the permits are secured, and Berkeley County is currently working out an arrangement with the City of Charleston and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to move forward.
One final note: Tim Callanan also announced that, as part of Senator Tim Scott’s Presidential Town Hall Series, Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy will welcome Florida Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush to speak at Bishop England’s Performing Arts Center on October 24 at 9 a.m.
The next DINA meeting will be on November 3 at 7 p.m., with guest speakers South Carolina Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome and Berkeley County School Board member Mac McQuillin.