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Latest News in West Ashley, SC

West Ashley homeowner embraced native planting. Charleston County threatened to fine him.

Just a few turns off Savannah Highway, as the car dealerships and fast-food joints give way to expansive views of saltwater and marsh, a one-story home is nestled among a thicket of wildlife.Four massive live oak trees anchor the lawn. Bird feeders dangle from the heavy branches. A gravel path snakes its way through nearly 100 species of flowering plants, trees, grasses, shrubs and more. Bees, butterflies and other animals flap and crawl, happy to call this place home.Elliotte Quinn has created an oasis in his front yard....

Just a few turns off Savannah Highway, as the car dealerships and fast-food joints give way to expansive views of saltwater and marsh, a one-story home is nestled among a thicket of wildlife.

Four massive live oak trees anchor the lawn. Bird feeders dangle from the heavy branches. A gravel path snakes its way through nearly 100 species of flowering plants, trees, grasses, shrubs and more. Bees, butterflies and other animals flap and crawl, happy to call this place home.

Elliotte Quinn has created an oasis in his front yard.

Quinn, who moved with his family to Edgewater Park three years ago, is part of a growing number of property owners choosing to embrace native planting. The technique uses specific plant species to attract native pollinators, ultimately creating a balanced food web.

Proponents argue native plants help battle erosion, reduce air pollution and promote biodiversity. Pesticides and lawn mowers are no longer needed as the ecosystem begins to keep itself in check.

Native yards vastly differ depending on the gardener. But they almost never fit the mold of a traditional American lawn — grassy and weedless, with a few evergreen bushes framing the front, said David Manger, owner of Roots and Shoots, a native plant nursery in West Ashley.

A native yard, particularly to the untrained eye, can look wild and unkempt, Manger said. Some property owners find themselves fighting community associations, disapproving neighbors or government ordinances to keep their chosen aesthetic.

Quinn can attest. The father of three, who works during the day as a lawyer specializing in construction defects, has received two complaints in under a year from Charleston County’s zoning and planning department.

Code enforcement officers told him the front yard violated an ordinance concerning weeds and rank vegetation. The most recent complaint — a June 7 letter shared with The Post and Courier — threatened a summons and hefty fine if he didn’t get rid of the “overgrowth.”

Both times, after Quinn explained his choice to cultivate the yard with native plants, county officials dropped the case.

Columnists

‘Quinn’s Meadow’

Quinn’s passion for native planting exploded during summer 2020, in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. He started a vegetable garden with his young daughters, spurred by a childhood interest in wildlife and conservation.

They grew tomatoes and pumpkins, but worms began destroying the plants. Not wanting to spray the garden with pesticides, Quinn began reading about natural alternatives. He learned what he could plant to attract predator insects.

“That kind of spiraled off into something of an obsession with native plants,” he said.

Quinn ripped up the grass in his front yard, tossed out some seeds and bedded a few plants. He eventually hired someone to turn over the topsoil, put down compost and create gravel walkways.

The garden — which his daughters affectionately call “Quinn’s Meadow” — grew from there.

Green is the dominant color across the yard. But if a visitor sat on the front porch swing where Quinn likes to spend early mornings, they’d notice pockets of flowers interspersed with grass and fruit trees. They might hear the chirp of a painted bunting, delighting in its feathery rainbow of reds, blues and greens.

Manger, who used to lead the Charleston Permaculture Guild, said the number of people committing to sustainable agriculture has increased over the years. He’s noticed property owners beginning to steer away from typical yard spaces.

Edgewater Park, where Quinn lives, doesn’t have a homeowners association. But Manger said more people are coming to Roots and Shoots for advice on how to use native plants and work around stringent rules.

A compromise, for instance, could be to cover half of the yard with native plants and leave a small mowing strip of grass at the front, Manger said. This signals to neighbors the garden is both maintained and intentionally designed.

A fine line

Quinn first received an email from Charleston County in September 2022, he said. A code enforcement officer told him they’d gotten a complaint about his yard and wanted to talk.

By the time they spoke on the phone, the officer had driven by the property and realized the design was intentional — not the result of a lazy homeowner. The officer closed out the complaint.

Months later, on June 7, county officials notified Quinn they’d received another complaint of vegetation overgrowth. An officer inspected the property and found him in violation of a county ordinance prohibiting uncultivated, dense overgrowth, the letter states.

The county gave Quinn until June 22 to remove it, threatening him with a summons and $1,087 fine. He responded with an eight-page letter explaining why his yard complies with the ordinance.

Quinn spends hours each month intentionally cultivating his garden — planting, weeding and watering new plants — he wrote. Many of the native plants are considered priority species by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Prohibiting a property owner from growing them would conflict with state environmental and resource protection statutes, Quinn said.

County officials relented, deciding he hadn’t violated any ordinances. They closed the case.

SC Climate and Environment News

Quinn feels bothered by the whole situation but is grateful to have a legal background, he said. The homeowner wondered about others who might find themselves subject to similar scrutiny.

If a government went through with imposing a fine or issuing a summons for native planting, Quinn offered to represent them pro bono — to stand up for others who want to change how we do landscaping, he said.

A Charleston County spokeswoman refused to make anyone from its zoning and planning department available for an interview. The department takes all complaints seriously and investigates them, she said.

Manger hopes that as native planting becomes more common, code enforcement officers will have more tools in their arsenal to decipher a native lawn from an overgrown one.

“It’s definitely a fine line,” he said. “You’d kind of have to know what plants you’re looking at.”

Plenty of flowers and a general diversity of plant species are usually signs of a native yard, Manger said. But the best way to find out is by asking the gardener.

If you spoke to Quinn, he’d proudly show you his favorite flower: the swamp rose mallow. The native hibiscus, with big white petals and a dark-pink center, blooms only for a day.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a chimney bee pollinating the flower. This specialist insect primarily forages on hibiscus plants; Quinn knows he’d never see one if he had a traditional lawn.

Call Jocelyn Grzeszczak at 843-323-9175. Follow her on Twitter at @jocgrz.

Debate continues regarding development of former West Ashley Piggly Wiggly site

The City of Charleston Community Development Commission met Thursday to discuss the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street in West Ashley.CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston Community Development Commission discussed the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street Thursday night for the first time since last month after a city council meeting deferred discussions due to ...

The City of Charleston Community Development Commission met Thursday to discuss the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street in West Ashley.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston Community Development Commission discussed the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street Thursday night for the first time since last month after a city council meeting deferred discussions due to a split vote.

The meeting lasted for three hours as commissioners argued back and forth, with some advocating for green space to be the focus, and others wanting the project to focus on revitalization.

City officials and the public were asked for their input on three different proposals last month, with the first option including underground parking, outdoor areas and a civic building.

Option one was the most popular with 72% of the community in favor of the design, yet approval failed in a split decision vote by the city council.

“I just want to say I’m a little surprised and disappointed that it seems like the politicians are just not listening to the residents of West Ashley,” community member Sharon Gardner says.

Thursday’s meeting was set with plans of potential action for the project, but after hours of heated discussion, the only decision made was to develop another proposal with a design only including civic building and green space.

“I think we need to develop another option,” Charleston City Councilmember, William Dudley Gregorie, says. “We need to develop another option that is green space, and municipal space, and let the people of West Ashley take a look at that.”

The motion was made even after dozens of members of the public continued to push for option one.

“Having something in our community to allow us to gather is very important,” West Ashley resident William Tinkler says. “I’ve talked with many people in the last couple of months, and I can tell that people in West Ashley, they want action; they want something done now.”

Although the meeting was held by the Charleston Community Development Commission, almost every member of the Charleston City Council joined, saying no project in the city’s history has had this large of a public response.

“Approach this effort in this project through the lens of West Ashley revitalization,” councilmember Ross Appel says. “We need to find a way to jumpstart the economy of West Ashley; because let’s face it, West Ashley does lag behind other parts of the city and other parts of the region.”

Unless one voting member changes their mind, at this rate the decision will simply remain split.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg himself is on the side of economic growth.

“If we approve it, we would be able to move forward and get something going, that includes the multi-uses that respectfully many hundreds of our citizens weigh in upon over the last few years,” Tecklenburg says. “It’s a good option; it will revitalize the West Ashley, it’s a good way to go”

A community member who has been involved in the process says this is the nineteenth meeting on the development in the last six years.

Robert Mitchell, Perry Waring, William Dudley Gregorie and Caroline Parker were in favor of Thursday’s motion to develop another proposal with design only including civic building and green space. Mayor John Tecklenburg, Ross Appel and Jason Sakran were opposed.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

City presents options for redevelopment of old Piggly Wiggly in West Ashley

The redevelopment of the old Piggly Wiggly site near the Northbridge in West Ashley is continuing to move forward.CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The redevelopment of the old Piggly Wiggly site near the Northbridge in West Ashley is continuing to move forward.The city of Charleston presented three options to community members to hear their feedback on which option they preferred Thursday night.Stormwater, traffic and noise were among the most common issues people shared at the meeting.“All the water from the shopp...

The redevelopment of the old Piggly Wiggly site near the Northbridge in West Ashley is continuing to move forward.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The redevelopment of the old Piggly Wiggly site near the Northbridge in West Ashley is continuing to move forward.

The city of Charleston presented three options to community members to hear their feedback on which option they preferred Thursday night.

Stormwater, traffic and noise were among the most common issues people shared at the meeting.

“All the water from the shopping center now comes to the pond in front of my house,” community member Nell Postell said.

City officials presented three options with the main difference being parking.

Option one is the most expensive option– costing the city around $43 million, but it was the most popular vote amongst community members.

It includes underground parking, which officials say could store water in the event of a storm.

“We have flooding problems everywhere, it’s all over the news, well this is how we can address it,” community member Kenneth Marolda said.

Option two includes an above ground parking garage and is about $10 million less expensive than the first proposal. It has the same commercial capacity as the first option but has less civic space.

Finally, option three includes a regular parking lot, decreasing the number of people the venue can hold and the total cost.

Although City of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg did not specifically say he favors the option with the underground parking, he stressed how important it is to him for the development to include as much civic space as possible.

“I feel the most important thing about this whole project and development is providing a place where families in West Ashley can gather together,” Tecklenburg said.

City officials say part of the city’s portion of this project will be paid for via a special tax district in place.

Because of the site’s location, and because it will be partially funded with taxpayer money, city officials stressed the importance of getting the community on board with the development.

“It’s really important to get public feedback on this because this is the gateway into West Ashley and the city of Charleston,” West Ashley Coordinator Eric Pohlman said.

The plans will next be brought in front of the city council for a vote on June 20.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Charleston loses appeal in fight with North Charleston for rural West Ashley property

The city of Charleston and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have argued that North Charleston’s “leap frog” annexation inside the rural Ashley River Historic District will destroy the area’s continuity and damage its archeological significance.And now, almost five years since the legal fight began, the courts still aren’t convinced.In the latest decision involving the annexation dispute between two of the state’s largest cities, the S.C. Court of Appeals did not block North Charle...

The city of Charleston and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have argued that North Charleston’s “leap frog” annexation inside the rural Ashley River Historic District will destroy the area’s continuity and damage its archeological significance.

And now, almost five years since the legal fight began, the courts still aren’t convinced.

In the latest decision involving the annexation dispute between two of the state’s largest cities, the S.C. Court of Appeals did not block North Charleston’s annexation of a 1-acre parcel along S.C. Highway 61 which could eventually pave the way for North Charleston’s expansion throughout West Ashley.

The appeals court’s unanimous ruling affirmed the 2019 ruling by Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith Jr. The lower court ruled in 2019 that neither Charleston nor the National Trust have the legal right to challenge North Charleston’s 2017 annexation.

“We find respondents lack standing to challenge the annexation of the acre by North Charleston,” wrote Chief Judge Bruce Williams in the Feb. 1 decision. “Therefore, further consideration of the matter by this court is foreclosed.”

In 2017, North Charleston properly annexed the 113 acre-tract known as Runnymede Plantation off S.C. Highway 61 owned by the Whitfield Construction Co. The company then gave North Charleston an acre of land on the opposite side of S.C. 61 which North Charleston attorneys have said is adjacent to the larger, 2,200-acre tract also owned by Whitfield.

The city of Charleston argues the annexation of the acre was not proper because it jumps over a strip of land — a 100-foot wide buffer running along the highway — that was already owned by the National Trust and annexed into the Charleston.

Charleston plans to appeal the court’s latest decision to the state Supreme Court because state law “clearly forbids this kind of land jumping, and allowing it to stand would set a terrible precedent,” city spokesman Jack O’Toole said.

In late 2017, around the same time North Charleston hopped over Charleston’s boundary to claim the 1-acre parcel, the city of Charleston annexed a total of about 6,000 acres in the surrounding area. That annexation included the 2,200-acre Whitfield tract and a 30-acre property called Millbrook Plantation LLC.

Because the city used the 75 percent rule, it was able to take both properties without the owners’ consent because 75 percent of surrounding property owners with 75 percent of the total land value had asked to join the city.

Property owners who joined included those who wanted to preserve the area’s rural character. North Charleston responded two days later with its own attempt to annex the Millbrook and Whitfield properties. Though North Charleston started its annexation last, it finished its annexation before Charleston.

Charleston argued that under the “prior jurisdiction doctrine,” it was allowed to finish the process without interference. The appeals court affirmed that the Supreme Court has refused to adopt that doctrine.

Charleston says it also has environmental concerns.

The city alleges that North Charleston’s “scheme” to use the 1-acre lot to gain continuity with the abutting 2,200-acre parcel would eventually bring unwanted development. Charleston and the National Trust emphasize that development on that tract would not be controlled by the Charleston Urban Growth Boundary, designed to limit construction along the rural corridor.

Overdevelopment would lead to the destruction of the archeological significance of the district, the city and National Trust said.

“This massive tract sits at the top of the Church Creek drainage basin,” O’Toole said. “We have a duty to protect it from overdevelopment in order to prevent flooding throughout the entire area.”

North Charleston is pleased with the ruling.

“The city of North Charleston appreciates the thoughtful consideration provided by the Court of Appeals and is pleased to see the trial court’s ruling in favor of North Charleston affirmed,” said City Attorney Derk Van Raalte.

The case was expected to help clarify state annexation law, which says land to be annexed must be contiguous to land already in a city’s limits. North Charleston has argued in the past that its annexation of the 1 acre was legal due to a lesser-known statute that allows for cities to annex property “adjacent” to city limits.

But the appeals court acknowledged that their decision has not “yet addressed whether the term ‘adjacent’ within section 5-3-100 requires contiguity.”

Justices appear to want to be done with the matter.

“Respondents have failed to demonstrate that North Charleston’s annexation of the acre incites anything more than a boundary dispute between two municipalities,” Williams said. “Further, the absence of a challenge to the annexation by the State is illustrative of the State’s position on whether the matter rises to a level of public concern.”

City leaders work to bring flood relief to an older community in West Ashley

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — During a severe...

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — During a severe storm or a heavy downpour, the surrounding areas in the Windermere Community see a lot of flooded streets.

For years, city leaders have been working on what solution to bring to make the impact of storms less severe.

City leaders work to bring flood relief to an older community in West Ashley. (WCIV)

It seems like after research and community interaction, leaders came up with the Windermere Basin Project. When completed, this project would allow the water from a storm to drain a lot easier out of the streets and flow into a drainage system.

Even though this project is still in its surveying and design phase, Councilman Ross Appel believes this could be a game change for residents in West Ashley.

Read More: "Help is on the way": Major storm water improvements are coming to Windermere neighborhood

"This project's main goal is to engineer our way out of a a lot of challenges by improving pipe size, and improving the number of drainage conveyances," Councilman Ross Appel said. "... So we can drain the area better, because right now when we get big storms Old Windermere and South Windermere floods pretty substantial."

This project would not only help clear the streets, but it would also help improve the quality of life throughout the Lowcountry.

“It impacts schools, workplaces, and the shopping centers and the more improvements we can go especially in these older neighborhoods that were not designed when they were originally built with any kind of storm water approach," said Matthew Fountain, the Director of Storm Water Management.

Read More: West Ashley residents say neighborhood developer isn't helping with flooding concerns

"We basically go back and retrofit those properties and install and improve new storm water systems and they would behave like they would require new commercial development or a new substation to be built and make a real improvement to people’s life," he said.

No date of the completion has been set but the project recently received a $2 million grant for the process.

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