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Historic Charleston Foundation appeals zoning board decision

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Historic Charleston Foundation has filed an appeal in Charleston County Circuit Court asking the court to reverse a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals decision that would allow a 252-room hotel to be built on Meeting Street.

The property at 431 Meeting St. is currently owned by Charleston School of Law but is under contract to sell to a hotelier for $12.5 million.

Historic Charleston Foundation also appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals directly in early April to reverse its February decision, but the board denied the appeal.

The foundation’s appeal to the circuit court is similar in substance to the appeal it made to the Board of Zoning Appeals, arguing that the board should have considered the state’s pending ordinance doctrine when making its decision and that the board did not properly apply the city’s existing zoning ordinance.

The pending ordinance doctrine gives local governments the authority to refuse a zoning application when the use is not allowed under a then-pending and later-enacted zoning ordinance. An ordinance is legally pending when the municipality’s governing body has “resolved to consider a particular scheme of rezoning and has advertised to the public its intention to hold public hearings,” according to the Municipal Association of S.C.

According to Historic Charleston Foundation’s appeal, Charleston City Council “considered, debated and voted unanimously to defer the first reading of revision” of the city’s accommodations zoning ordinance on Aug. 18. City Council did not pick up the issue again until last month when it created a hotel task force made up of council members, hoteliers and community advocates. The task force is expected to present recommendations to City Council on May 28.

The city’s Planning Department told the Board of Zoning Appeals that it did not believe the pending ordinance doctrine applied in this case.

Historic Charleston Foundation also said it believes the Board of Zoning Appeals did not properly apply Charleston’s existing zoning ordinance, which instructs the board to consider whether a hotel minimizes “potential negative impacts affecting residential neighborhoods ... to the greatest extent possible.” The foundation said the board erred by not considering whether the hotel falls into the development patterns and predominant land use of the surrounding area and whether the proposed hotel contributes to the creation of a diverse, mixed-use community.

Leonard Krawcheck, chair of the Board of Zoning Appeals, said the board is required to consider five criteria for a potential hotel development and “shall consider” an additional 19 items, according to the ordinance. Krawcheck said, though, that the board does not believe the additional 19 items — which includes whether a hotel follows the area’s development patterns and would help create a mixed-use community — gives it the power to deny a hotel.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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