Thank you for your article on the proposed recreation center (August 9, 2018 edition) and raising our concerns regarding its current design. Our concern is simple - it fails to meet the needs of our community yet our elected officials are intent on moving forward. The City Visioning Process released on May 6, 2015 indicated that the community’s main recreation issue was an indoor sports complex. That’s critical when you consider 563 kids participated in recreational basketball in 2014, 150 participated in summer basketball camps, and 98 participated in volleyball. That was four years ago! One more court will not alleviate the pressure and demand for the 800-plus kids who need court space.
It’s also important to review the timeline of this project. In September of 2016, Mayor Tecklenburg and Councilman (Gary) White addressed DINA and presented an interior design, which was the only interior design presented to DINA before ARB preliminarily approved the current design on February 5, 2018. As far as can be determined, the current design was not presented to any group in 2017, nor was it posted on social media or a website. In May of 2018, the DINA committee working on the center requested a copy of the plans yet the City failed to provide them; thus no presentation at their meeting that month. On May 18th, a group of concerned citizens questioned this design on social media and were told by Councilman White the plans had been approved by ARB; yet ARB was not due to consider final approval of the plans until nearly a month later. The only interior plan on DINA’s Facebook page was the one from September of 2016. The neighborhood associations along Clements Ferry Road were not presented with the current plan either. In short, the public was not given an opportunity to view the current floor plan of one full court and 3,400 square feet of meeting space (the total square footage is also less than promised) prior to ARB’s final approval on June 4th, much less given ample time to express their concerns. And when they did speak their voices, why were they told it was too late to do anything?
Several other questions have yet to be answered by the City. The Fourth Amendment to the Development Agreement specifically refers to a 25,000-square-foot recreation center - were variances requested to increase the space available to meet this requirement and fit two full courts? Were semi pervious materials utilized to increase parking and accommodate the surrounding wetlands? How were the budget estimates calculated? Were alternative funding options explored? What alternative designs were considered? Why can’t the timeline be extended and what happens if the City fails to meet it?
All involved want the same thing - the City to honor its promise to build a recreation center. But why spend $9.5 million in taxpayer dollars for a facility that will not meet the current needs of our community when all options have yet to be explored? We still have time to build something unique that is long overdue and meets the needs of the community - let’s not waste it.
I feel compelled to clear up misinformation in a recent article regarding the new Community and Recreation Center being built on Daniel Island. First, Shawn Pinkston was quoted numerous times throughout the article and, therefore, appears to be a subject matter expert on this project. However, the truth is Mr. Pinkston did not participate in any of the planning charrettes, committee meetings or meetings with the City Capital Projects staff. Furthermore, Mr. Pinkston never volunteered any of the input that he is now espousing.
I scratched my head as to why The Daniel Island News believed Mr. Pinkston was the best person to interview, given that he did not participate in the planning for the project, and he holds no leadership role within the community. Then it dawned on me, Mr. Pinkston has run and lost multiple elected positions he has run for including U. S. Congress, the State House, City Council and the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association. It is clear that Mr. Pinkston’s intentions are to use this project as a political football in an empty attempt to try and win an election - any election.
After eight long years, we’re ready to break ground on this project. The fact The Daniel Island News allowed someone with purely political intentions a platform to misinform their readers is very disappointing. Those who volunteered their time on this project do not deserve for their hard work to be used for political games.
So, here is the real story. This project has been in the planning stages for over eight years. In early 2015, I put together public meetings to gather input on what was needed for both the Daniel Island and Cainhoy communities. After multiple meetings and hundreds of comments from the community, the top needs identified were for indoor recreation space for volleyball and basketball and indoor meeting space for civic clubs and community groups. My FULL quote in an update to the community in 2015 was “The major project that was identified in the planning charrette was the need for an indoor recreation and community center.”
In late 2015 the City hired an architect to do initial site plans and program renderings. Those drawings were presented to the community in 2016, and I told those present at the meeting that the designs shown were only for discussion purposes and were not the final plans. Since that time, the neighborhood committee tasked with working on this project met countless times with me, City staff and the architects to review plans and provide feedback. The committee presented updates on this project at almost every single neighborhood association meeting over the last two years.
Recently, on a social media page, several parents raised a concern about the design. I and City staff met for about three hours with the parents. (Mr. Pinkston was not present.) Their issue with the design was singularly focused on wanting a second basketball court. The City shared with the group that the architects tried, but the site simply was not large enough for a second basketball court.
I’m very excited the City is finally ready to get this project out of the ground. When complete, this is going to be a wonderful facility that will be a tremendous asset to all the citizens of Charleston for generations to come.
Charleston City Councilman
READERS OFFERS ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ON COMMUNITY REC CENTER
We find it necessary to respond to the recent Daniel Island News article “Questions Raised About New Daniel Island Recreation Center Design” (August 9, 2018).
It is our understanding that the agreements between Daniel Island Company and the City of Charleston call for the City to construct a community center on Daniel Island. Please note the title “Community Center.”
This project should address both recreation and social activities for our residents. We have worked on this project for nearly three years and have tried to balance the wishes of all of our neighbors. This effort has entailed many meetings with Councilman Gary White, City officials and visits to other centers for ideas and guidance. We have sought input from the community and have given updates at various DINA (Daniel Island Neighborhood Association) meetings.
Requests from neighbors included space for exercise, arts, crafts, enrichment, club meetings and community gatherings as well as sports recreation. We found that the island lacks adequate space for all of these activities. Holy Cross Church, Providence Baptist Church and the library cannot accommodate all the demands of our residents.
Regarding basketball court availability, there is currently a full court at the Daniel Island School, which will continue to be available. There are two outdoor courts next to the school at Freedom Park and a court at Etiwan Park. The new center will offer a full indoor court, which can be divided in to two smaller courts for younger players.
We do not have the funds, parking or drainage necessary to increase the size of the proposed center at the designated site. A community center on Daniel Island has been long awaited. We look forward to this center being able to serve the needs of all Daniel Island residents.
Please attend the DINA meeting on Tuesday, August 28 at the Daniel Island Club for an update.
Frank Walsh and Marcia Miller
Daniel Island Neighborhood Assoc.
Community Center Subcommittee