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City predicts defeat of DINA zoning appeal

BY JOHN HUSSEY, Special to The Daniel Island News

The Daniel Island Neighborhood Association (DINA) has filed an appeal in state court in Berkeley County seeking judicial review of the City of Charleston’s zoning decision favoring the Humanities Foundation affordable housing project, but the city predicts it will be rejected and construction permits issued.

The appeal was filed by attorney David S. Cobb on behalf of DINA and island residents Valerie Bautista and Albert Vitalo, officers of DINA. It asks the Berkeley County Court of Common Pleas to intervene in the now nine-month-long dispute between DINA and the Humanities Foundation, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the city zoning staff.

Tim Domin, an attorney for the city, said the appeal would not delay the permit granting process. "Under state law, the filing of an appeal does not act as a stay of a decision made by the zoning board," he said. Domin said the city will grant construction permits to the Humanities Foundation "as soon as the appropriate papers are completed." Court observers say that the case may take two to three months to appear on the docket of the Berkeley County court.

"DINA, as the representative of all Daniel Island residents, will take any and all means necessary to assure that the parties involved in this Humanities Foundation project comply with the City of Charleston 2001 Affordable Housing Plan," said Dr. Franklin Medio, president of DINA. "The plan was specifically designed to avoid this type of high-density project and to protect residents from being negatively stigmatized by living in such a facility."

Vitalo said, "All we want is for the City and The Daniel Island Company to conform to the original affordable housing plan presented to us as owners. We all support that plan."

Domin predicted that the appeal would fail on its merits. "The city is confident it will win this case. The court is required by law to give deference to the zoning board’s decision," he said. Domin explained that under South Carolina law, the board acts as "the trial level" taking evidence and hearing arguments. "The appeals process serves to correct errors of law, not to re-hear the case," he said.

"What is at issue is not whether there will be affordable housing, but rather is multifamily housing allowed at this Town Center location. One of the important points the city made and will make is that there are already over 700 multifamily units approved in this Town Center area. Those units would not meet the [appeal] requirements either," he said.

Domin added, "I think this is going to be a good affordable housing project. The city is committed to demanding that the property be run in a professional, clean and safe manner."

The appeal alleges that the city ignored and misinterpreted certain guidelines in the Daniel Island Master Plan to facilitate permits for construction of the 72-unit project. The petition contends that the Master Plan "clearly intended" to apply to all residential development within the Daniel Island Town Center in order to achieve an "attractive, harmonious, coherent and practical new place to live and work." This appeal is based on arguments made at the Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals in earlier hearings. The BZA process involved two separate hearings. The chairman of the BZA called the issue "clear as mud" and another board member said that DINA’s appeal was "one of the strongest" ever presented to the board. Thus far, however, all appeals have been defeated.

The appeal also contends that the Master Plan "does not permit a multi-family apartment complex" at the chosen intersection because such development can only occur on locations originally platted into small lots. "Obviously, that is not the case," the suit says, because the present site was platted as a large tract with lots of three to six acres.

The City of Charleston is criticized for deliberate misinterpretation of the wording of the Master Plan in order to achieve its zoning decision. "Documents and statements from 1995 to current show, without question, that an apartment complex was never ‘intended’ for the proposed site," the appeal claims.

The appeal says the 2001 Daniel Island Affordable Housing Plan would be achieved with "scattered site" units. Further, the plaintiffs argue that as to the specific site, "the property was zoned ‘general office’ from inception until November, 2003" and that documents made available by The Daniel Island Company showed that the property was to be for ‘institutional/commercial" use, not multi-family.

"Many Daniel Island residents were told by agents of the developer that the proposed site would be ‘a church, a school or a library’ and the developers made available (until recently) a map of Daniel Island that never showed the property as multi-family," the appeal says.

Rozier explains property taxes at chamber meeting

Daniel Island Area Council Meeting held at the Daniel Island Medical Center

BY TOM RATZLOFF, Special to The Daniel Island News

When Berkeley County Supervisor Jim Rozier visited Daniel Island in 1991, it was in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle that had to traverse a rickety wooden bridge.

Flash forward 14 years and Daniel Island’s new planned community now accounts for half the growth in the county, he said.

Rozier talked about Berkeley County’s rapid economic development and escalating property values during a meeting of business, school and government leaders at Daniel Island Medical Center Friday.

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce’s Daniel Island Area Council sponsored the gathering. The chamber has five area councils representing Hanahan, Sangaree, Moncks Corner, Daniel Island, and Goose Creek. They meet three to four times a year to address area issues.

"Daniel Island plays a major role in the future growth of Berkeley County," Rozier said. "People ask me, ‘Does the county provide services to Daniel Island?’ and I say, ‘Yes, but Daniel Island will be playing a major role in the future tax base of Berkeley County for a long time.’"

Rozier said some homeowners are going to have sticker shock when they receive their property-tax bills in mid-October. One reason is because the white-hot housing market has caused home values to skyrocket.

Two factors control property taxes, Rozier said. The first is property value; the second is the mill rate, which is the amount of tax paid per dollar of assessed property value.

"We can’t control the property values," he said. "When you folks pay twice as much as the property is worth, that just runs the rest of the properties up. And that’s OK. That’s the forces of the marketplace."

But the county can control the mill rate, he said. To this end, Berkeley County’s mill rate has actually declined nearly 5 percent while the county’s budget has nearly tripled.

"How did we get the money for extra services? In 1991, the millage for county services was 54 mills; today it’s 51.5 mills," Rozier said. "A mill in January 1991 had a value of $173,000. Multiply 54 times 173 and you get a budget of $9 million and change. Today a mill is worth $481,981. Multiply that times 51.5 and you get a budget of $24 million and change.

"What we’ve done is be patient enough to provide the additional services as the mill grew in value and brought in additional revenue," he added. "And I think that’s what you should expect from your local governments."

Rozier said the county tries to assess properties at around 95 percent of value. Today, counties reassess every five years, per state statute.

"We want to value your property so that when you look at your property tax valuation, you ask yourself, ‘Would I sell my property for this?’ If you would sell your property for less than this, you probably should come talk to us. But if you say, ‘I wouldn’t take this for my property,’ you probably ought to leave it alone."

Rozier used Daniel Island real estate as an example of rising property values.

"We reassessed Daniel Island properties in 2003 at 95 percent of their value," he said. "Today those same properties are at 79 percent of value. That’s how fast property values are growing. They’re exploding."

Rozier doesn’t see property values declining significantly in the near future.

"I thought the bubble was going to pop," he said. "But then I went to California and visited Monterey and Big Sur and thought, ‘Good Lord, we’ve got a long way to go.’ I do believe there will be quiet periods followed by active periods, but I don’t see it slowing down."

Park Day organizers looking for Charity Challenge competitors

Corporate entries can win a golf outing at the DI Club for the charity of their choice


The Park Day Charity Challenge is a unique event designed to provide the winner with a great prize for the charity of their choice.

Here is how it works. Show off your company’s charitable side and team-building skills by competing in the Park Day Charity Challenge for the nonprofit organization of your choice. The winner of the Charity Challenge will be awarded the use of the Daniel Island Club’s private Beresford Creek golf course for a day-long fundraising event benefiting the organization’s selected charity. This exclusive "golf for a day" prize includes all greens and cart fees, so you can imagine the fundraising potential of hosting a golf tournament at the exclusive Daniel Island Club. What a great way to raise even more money for your charity.

The actual Charity Challenge games are a bit silly, and require little or no athletic skill, and are tremendous fun for the participants and the spectators.

The field will be limited to 20 teams of four players each. This year’s team already include Home Telecom, South Carolina Shrimpers Association, Muhler, Daniel Island Aesthetic Dentistry, Philip W. Smith General Contractor, Inc., The Daniel Island News and Coast 92.5.

The fee for fielding a team is $500.

In addition to winning the big prize, each member of the team will also receive commemorative Park Day t-shirt. Second- and third-place winners will each receive $500 for their designated charity.

Teams are encouraged to show team spirit by wearing matching company apparel for the event.

If you are interested in fielding a team, please contact Park Day organizers at 843-856-1363.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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