CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC – Today, on behalf of the Ten Mile Neighborhood Association, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project filed an appeal of the Charleston County Planning Commission’s June 12 decision to uphold County staff’s decision to approve the final plat of a proposed subdivision in the historic African-American community at the edge of Copahee Sound.
Crescent Homes is planning 21 elevated homes on less than 6 acres of “high-ground” (raised with fill dirt by several feet compared to the surrounding parcels), on a cul-de-sac one-street subdivision with vehicular access from Seafood Road, which reliably floods at high tide.
In 2018, Charleston County adopted a Historic Preservation Ordinance specifically designed to protect historic African-American settlement communities like Ten Mile by ensuring that future developments are compatible with the unique historic and cultural resources the County. The Ordinance unequivocally requires that subdivisions (along with any other new construction) must be as certified as historically appropriate if proposed in an Historic District. Yet, the Seafood Road final plat was approved while the application for the certificate was still pending before the Historic Preservation Commission (which will in fact meet again next week to review this matter) and the County failed to provide any written documentation to justify their decision to approve the plat. Furthermore, the Planning Commission exclusively relied on the Permit Extension Bill to issue its decision, without even considering the historic appropriateness requirements.
Founded nearly two centuries ago, the Ten Mile community’s historic value cannot be overstated, and its cultural significance led to its designation as a Historic District in 2022. The Ten Mile community is for the most part nestled between Highway 17 and Copahee Sound, with the highly unusual Seafood Road running along the saltmarsh with a stunning wide-open view.
The Planning Commission’s decision violates express provisions in the Zoning and Land Development Regulations, including those which require that subdivisions (along with any other new construction) must be as certified as historically appropriate if proposed in an Historic District.
In addition to the destruction of the integrity of the historical district, the proposed subdivision could create serious environmental impacts, worsening flooding and stormwater runoff into the Sound. Seafood Road, the only access road for the proposed subdivision, is already regularly inundated and unpassable at high tide and is in a particularly bad state of repair. In addition to the public safety and water quality hazards stemming from such a development, the subdivision as proposed is not a reasonable attempt to cope with sea level rise and/or to promote resilience of our coastal communities.
“The Ten Mile Community is disheartened by the systematic weakening of the Historic Preservation Ordinance, designed to protect settlement communities,” said Edward Pinckney, on behalf of the Ten Mile Neighborhood Association's Historic Preservation Committee. “For nearly 200 years, our culture and community have been part of the Charleston landscape - enriching it. Once overdevelopment removes all of the historic communities, local culture, and originators of art from Charleston, there will be no uniqueness left in our area. Only reminders of what once made this area so special.”
The proposed subdivision does not add anything to the Ten Mile community’s historic and cultural value, it would only take away, further advancing the well-established gentrification trend East of the Cooper. Just a few weeks after the grand opening of the International African American Museum, this is not the time for Charleston County to drop the ball on the protection of its cultural resources.
"We are proud to stand with the Ten Mile Community to try to protect its historic character," said Ben Cunningham, Senior Managing Attorney at SCELP. "We have and will continue to defend against the potential erosion of environmental and cultural protections for all historic communities in our area."
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The South Carolina Environmental Law Project is a nonprofit public interest law firm. We use our legal expertise to protect land, water and communities across South Carolina. Learn more at www.scelp.org.