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Residents, environmentalists speak out about Cainhoy Plantation development

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By Liz Segrist
Published Jan. 13, 2014

Residents and environmentalists recently voiced their concerns to planners about the impending development of Cainhoy Plantation.

The plans go before the city’s Planning Commission at a special meeting Jan. 28. Roughly half of the 9,000-acre plantation (.pdf) is poised for a mixed-use development. The land sits between Daniel Island and the Francis Marion National Forest. Clements Ferry Road runs through it.

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More than 100 locals attended a meeting Thursday at Cainhoy Elementary and Middle School to learn more about the plans and give feedback. The meeting was part of the city’s two-day effort to hear out residents.

After the developers and city planners made their presentations for nearly two hours, citizens stood up and expressed concerns about the development’s density, traffic congestion, wildlife and forest disturbance, the types of development planned, the pace of development and whether current residents would be pushed out over time.

Other attendees said they liked the plans, but they want the development to be done thoughtfully over time.

During the meeting, Tim Keane, the city of Charleston’s chief planning director, addressed concerns voiced in local media and from residents. One such reservation is that the development is massive, and it’s happening too fast.

“The good news I can tell you is that we’re not making every decision about this property right now,” Keane said. “This is something that’s going to be going on for decades. We expect to have planning charrettes like this over the next 10 years.”

Keane said the land has been zoned for suburban development since the plantation was annexed by city, along with Daniel Island, in the mid-1990s.

Development plans for Cainhoy Plantation call for commercial, retail, industrial and green spaces, as well as residential components, according to city of Charleston planning documents.

The development’s density limit is set at 2.1 units per acre. Estimates indicate up to 20,000 people could call it home over the next couple decades.

The plantation’s north side along Cainhoy Road and the Francis Marion National Forest is designated as a “jobs center,” potentially hosting light industrial and commercial space. It could be similar to the Charleston Regional Business Center, said Matt Sloan, the representative for the landowners, Cainhoy Land & Timber.

The Historic Charleston Foundation and Coastal Conservation League have concerns about the density of the development and its proximity to the national forest.

Sarah Hartman, The Nature Conservancy’s land protection director, said she fears that development so close to the Francis Marion National Forest and throughout the plantation could affect the area’s longleaf pine population.

“The longleaf pines are one of the most endangered in the world ...We believe compatible development can happen. We need jobs and growth opportunities, but we need to be very sensitive about what happens in this area and how it can affect longleaf pines,” Hartman said.

Other attendees were worried about the impact on the wildlife’s habitat there, as well as whether deer would create unsafe driving conditions post-development.

DesignWorks co-founder Scott Parker said culverts will be built under the road for smaller animals and reptiles to cross safely. Larger pathways will be incorporated throughout the development for larger wildlife to travel throughout the community, though there’s no guarantee that the animals will use these pathways.

At this time, roughly 800 acres are being considered for development, all of which are on the south side of Clements Ferry Road, Sloan said. A new high school is being planned for the area. It could take more than 30 years to build out the entire master plan.

Sloan is currently seeing the landowners through the entitlement process, which covers the plantation’s entire 9,000 acres.

Only half will be developed over time, since the remaining acreage is designated as wetlands or set aside for recreational use for the owners, said Sloan, also the president of the Daniel Island Co. The wetlands will guide development and be incorporated into neighborhoods and parks, Parker said.

Family members of the late Harry Frank Guggenheim have owned the plantation for more than 80 years and were among the original Daniel Island developers. They plan to emulate components of Daniel Island to create a community in which residents can walk to places where they “live, work, shop, learn and play.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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