Full Report on Drainage Projects From Mayor John J. Tecklenburg

It’s been another busy week here in the City, particularly in the area of flooding and drainage. With that in mind, I thought would be a good time for me to give you a full report on drainage projects recently completed or in the works:

Forest Acres Drainage Improvements – Phase 1 and 2:This project serves a number of West Ashley neighborhoods including Washington Park and North Forest Acres.? Phase 1 was completed earlier this year to the tune of $11.4 million. With a few more property/easement acquisitions, we’ll be starting Phase 2 which will continue the installation of new pipes and open channels upstream of the former pump station. This project recently won the South Carolina ?American Public Works Association 2018 Public Works Project of the Year Award.

Church Creek Drainage Basin – Bob Horner of Weston and Sampson has completed a thorough analysis of the basin.? City Council passed new development/stormwater requirements last week to increase water retention and improve flow in the basin.? In September we will also bring to Council a contract to proceed with a project that will divert stormwater flowing into the Hickory Farms neighborhood.? Our second project will be tidal protection for the basin and we have allocated an initial $2.5 million for these projects. We have also improved the maintenance in this critical basin by increasing its frequency.

?Dupont/Wappoo Watershed Master Plan – A joint project of the City and County of Charleston involves a complete inventory of all drainage features (all conveyance pipes, culverts, ditches, etc.) ?in the basin which includes Citadel Mall, Hazelwood, and the neighborhoods adjacent to Dupont, Wappoo, and Orleans Rds. The inventory is nearly complete and we’ve identified nearly double the number of features than was anticipated (over 3,000).? Maintenance and cleaning has occurred along the way but with the completion of the inventory, a model will be employed to enable effective projects to enhance water flow out of the basin.

Westwood neighborhood – We’ve finally received the SCDOT encroachment permit that was needed to finish this project that will provide relief to St. Theresa Dr and the Westwood neighborhood. The project is advertised for bids. We anticipate the bid opening on 9/13/18.? Construction may begin in November 2018.

?Ashley Hall Manor neighborhood – City Council just approved a drainage improvement project for this neighborhood that includes upsizing drainage pipe and ditches and a new outfall. The work should alleviate the frequent flooding of the Salisbury/Falmouth area in the neighborhood. This should be completed in the next 3-4 months.

Spring/Fishburne Sts. Drainage basin, which serves the Septima P. Clark Crosstown – This a complex project including more than 8,000 linear feet of underground tunnels (120 to 150 feet below surface) that will all be connected to an outfall and pump station between the Ashley River bridges.? We will be opening bids for phase 4 of this 5 phase project on September 11th. Phase 4 is the wetwell and outfall, estimated to be around $39 million, and must be completed before phase 5, the pump station, can be started as Phase 5 will be situated directly on top of the wetwell. This project is a poster-child example of the complexity, expense, and time requirements to complete a major drainage project but it will serve more than 500 acres of the western peninsula and will keep the Septima Clark crosstown open to traffic during most rain events when complete.? I know it’s a long time coming but will be worth it. Phase 4 will take about 3 years to complete and then another 2 more for phase 5. The tunnels are about halfway complete. Funding for Phase 4 is coming from the State Infrastructure Bank and funding for Phase 5 is from the King Street Gateway TIF.

The proposed solution for the Calhoun West project is a similar tunnel/pump system that will serve the western peninsula from about Cannon St. to the Battery.? It is currently being engineered and we are securing real estate for the drop shafts needed for the tunnel system. It’s critical to know the start and end points in order to complete the engineering, which will allow more exact estimates for the funding required.? Much more to come on this one.

Low Battery Sea Wall – The iconic low battery wall along Murray Blvd was built about 100 years ago and is failing and needs replacement.? This will give us the opportunity to raise the wall and add protection against king tides, extreme storms, and sea level rise. We have completed a re-engineering to raise it further and are proceeding with permitting and will put the project out for bid late this year.? We’ve decided due to the poor condition of existing wall, to start at Tradd St. at the Coast Guard Station and work our way back to White Point Gardens. We’ve been setting aside Accommodations and Hospitality funds for this project as it qualifies as tourism-related infrastructure; we are also researching grant opportunities as an additional funding source.? Start construction in early 2019.

King and Huger St. – This corner is notorious for flooding after a gentle rain, JMT Engineers has been engaged to study the basin and ?recommend a design for the project. The study will be complete the week of 8/27. Depending on the complexity of the recommended solution, we should have design plans in about 60 days.? We plan to use Tax Increment Finance funding for a portion of this project.

Market St. Streetscape and drainage connection – There’s already a new tunnel underneath Market St which connects to our Concord St pump station (which can pump about 7.2 million gallons of water out of the City in an hour).? To date 3 drop shafts along Market St are connected to the tunnel and are already making a difference in the market area and on Market St. In the near future, the entire drainage system along Market St from Meeting St to Concord St will be greatly improved and connected to the tunnel. ??As we improve the drainage on Market St, we will re-do the sidewalks and “streetscape.” Admittedly we’ve been delayed by provisions for the undergrounding of the electric lines and other utility considerations, but we’ve finally got the easements needed in place and SCE&G is completing their design for the undergrounding.? This project should also be able to proceed to construction in 2019 and will make a huge difference to drainage in the area.

Check valve installation – Check valves are installed just up from an outfall to prevent tidal water or storm surge from entering into our stormwater systems.? With the increased frequency of higher “king tides”, these check valves go a long way to avoid “nuisance flooding” and offer some protection from storm surge. In the last two years, the City has spent approximately $755,000 to install these valves ( or replace old ones) at Beaufain St., Ackerman Dr., George Griffith Dr., Morrison Dr., East Bay St., ?Bennett and Gadsden, two on Ashley Avenue (at Cannon Park and Tradd), Rutledge, Water and Limehouse (at the Battery), Montclair, Rebellion Road, and Poulnot Lane, These valves are already making a difference.

Central Park/Wambaw Watershed on James Island – In a similar fashion to the Dupont/Wappoo project listed above, the City and County are also partnering to inventory all the drainage features of this basin, create a model, and recommend any maintenance and infrastructure improvements.? We are using the same contractor and as soon as the DuWap inventory is complete, they’ll begin on this one, fall of this year.

Signal Point Rd area improvements – County is taking the lead on this study and recommended improvements,

James Island Drainage Master Plan – In addition, the County is taking the lead on an overall plan to delineate all the watersheds on James Island, and then to evaluate and prioritize them.? In the meantime, as presented at a recent James Island Intergovernmental meeting, the City, County, Town of James Island, James Island PSD, and the SCDOT are working cooperatively on maintenance.

John’s Island Drainage Master Plan – In a similar vein, the City is taking the lead on this one and contracted with Davis and Floyd to perform a “rain on grid model” for the island. Specific projects will follow specifically for the Barberry Woods neighborhood.

That summarizes most major projects underway (more than $200,000 each).? We know there are more to come. But also wanted to advise, that there are numerous smaller projects underway or recently completed (less than $200,000), that include:

Heathwood Dr/Elton Ct., W. Robinhood and Prince St., Lord Calvert Dr., George Griffith canal, Sunnyside, Morrison Dr, and others.

I hope this information is helpful and ask that if our citizens have anything particular to report, to please call our citizens service desk at 843-724-7311 or email us at citizenservices@charleston-sc.gov.? My next report will be on the numerous policy issues we are addressing with respect to drainage requirements and development.

John J. Tecklenburg

Mayor, City of Charleston

Straight Talk from Mayor John Tecklenburg – A Message from Our Mayor

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Many of you may have received a letter today from the Mayor.? For those that have not seen, here is the transcript from the Mayor where he discusses flooding, affordable living, traffic, government and community.

Letter from the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina

Good morning.

I hope you’re having a good week, but I know that last week’s excessive flooding has caused major inconveniences for too many of our citizens, and real damage to others. I can assure you that flooding and the impact of higher tides, which not only put immediate pressure on storm water systems but also pose a more long-term challenge, are a top priority for me — one that I think about when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. ?More on this later.

As I hope you know, Sandy and I have in the past two and a half years attended every function, neighborhood association meeting and public event humanly possible, and we will continue on this track. ?(Some of our events in just last week included reading to children at our city’s first continuing Freedom School, attending the 200th anniversary service at Mother Emanuel AME and working with our friends and colleagues at the 2018 SC Municipal Association Conference.) Fortunately this has given me the opportunity to listen and talk with many citizens, but I know given the size of our City, I have not done as well as I would like communicating and sharing with more of you what we know about our special city’s challenges and opportunities.

Accordingly, this is the first of my weekly updates, so you will better understand what your Mayor does, what we accomplish and some of the outstanding challenges and opportunities we are addressing every day.

Extreme Rain Bomb and Flash Flooding in Charleston

I regret that many in the City were affected by the deluge of rain that fell upon us on Friday, and I feel your frustration and pain.? I happened to be attending the annual SC Municipal Association Meeting (ironically, working on additional funding sources for drainage projects) and fortunately when we returned to town early Friday evening the waters had mostly receded.? The worst impact was the closure of the Septima Clark Parkway, or Crosstown.? The City is currently in Phase 3 of a 5-phase project that is expensive (approximately $ 160,000,000) under a multi year plan with the projected completion to be in 2022.? The immense project includes a massive pump station between the Ashley River Bridges that will essentially evacuate storm water from a nearly 600-acre section of our City, including all of the Septima Clark Parkway.? According to the best engineers money can buy, we are told that upon completion, the kind of event that occurred Friday will be a thing of the past.? I know this has been taking longer than any of us would like and it is not currently mitigating the effects of very heavy rains, but the construction necessitates a sequence of projects, all of which have timelines.? The good news is that the funding is in place and it’s under construction, so real relief is in sight.

In the meantime, as we have experienced more and more extreme weather events, I ask that our citizens keep in mind and work with the city and your neighbors to:

  • Pay close attention to the weather and tidal reports.? If you are in a low-lying area, please take those steps to protect yourself and your property.? Be proactive.
  • While our capable staff inspects the storm water systems on a regular basis it would be helpful if you could help check nearby drains, pipes, and ditches and let us know if they are not free of debris in front of your homes or business.? If unable to clear debris, please contact the City Customer Service Hotline at 724-7311 to request service.? You may also “adopt-a-drain” on the City’s website by clicking here. This is a new City initiative to keep our eyes on drains and keep storm water flowing.
  • Please do not attempt to drive on any street that appears to be impassable.

Progress with Traffic and Transportation:

I’m proud that my colleagues on City Council and I gave first reading to our new Citywide Transportation Plan, with final passage expected next month.? Much thanks to our Traffic and Transportation Director, Keith Benjamin, for his incredible efforts in bringing this plan forward.? And thanks, too, to the literally hundreds of citizens who participated along the way.? You may view the plan by clicking here.

The plan identified transportation policies such as “Complete Streets” that are to be updated, as well as 13 specific projects for transportation and public safety improvement.? The most important aspect of the plan is that it dovetails with the regional Council of Governments transportation plan, meaning that our projects are prioritized for future funding. In the meantime, as we await final Council approval in August, we are already working on a number of the specific projects included in the recommendations.

Affordable Housing is a Priority

Sandy and I were honored to be a part of the dedication of a new affordable housing community built on James Island, which is an important component of the diversity of our city. The City partnered with Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, which recently celebrated its 40th birthday and is the 3rd oldest chapter of Habitat.? The lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes have an affordable price tag of $69,000/unit with financing based on ability to pay.? It was eye-opening to discover that the land cost and infrastructure for each lot was $72,000/unit, more than the cost of the home itself. ?This is because of the heavy lifting by Habitat’s amazing and tirelessly committed volunteers.? I will be bringing a set of proposals to City Council soon to reduce costs (impact fees, inspections, permitting, etc.) wherever possible to further increase the stock of affordable housing in our City.

What’s Going on In City Government?

I share below information from the City of Charleston on upcoming events, activities, and services.? I hope this helps you better understand how much is happening throughout the city and the countless numbers of hours volunteers, non-profit organizations, businesses and city staff are investing in making our city the best we can be.

Committee on Community Development
July 26, 4:30 PM @ City Hall, Council Chamber

Board of Architectural Review – Small
July 26, 4:30 PM?-?9:30 PM @ Gaillard Center Public Meeting Room

Ad Hoc Budget Committee
July 27, 3:30 PM @ 116 Meeting Street, First Floor Conference Room

Commission on Disability Issues
July 27, 4:00 PM @ 2 George Street: Public Meeting Room, First Floor

Maybank Highway Public Zoning Workshop
July 30 and 31, 6:00 PM?-?8:00 PM
MORE: Charleston County and City of Charleston Planning Departments will co-host two public workshops on the proposed Maybank Highway and Main Road Zoning District., The workshops will provide staff with public input regarding land use, zoning, and development standards along Maybank Highway and Main Road. The purpose of this collaborative planning effort is to create consistent land use, zoning, and development requirements between the County and City, and for the County to create a new Main Road Overlay Zoning District. Attendees will be encouraged to provide feedback through a community survey, comment cards, and a public comment session. These are the first public workshops regarding the Maybank Highway and Main Road corridors, which will take place over the next year.

I hope this newsletter has been helpful. Thanks for taking the time to review, and please share any comments and suggestions.

I remain at your service and cherish every moment being the Mayor of my hometown.

John Tecklenburg

Mayor, City of Charleston

Waterfront Park Photo Courtesy of Mark A. Leon

Mayor Pictures Courtesy of Charleston County Government

5 Ways the Charleston Government can make the Lowcountry liveable again

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Yesterday’s flooding was not a wake up call for most that live in the Lowcountry, but the harsh reality of life on the coast in the heart of a targeted hurricane area.? Not only did the flooding cripple drivers throughout the area, but it has created concern on the health of our waters and the unsafe bacteria that can cause harm to children and adults enjoying basic recreational activities.

Mayor Tecklenburg and his staff made promises of “Better Liveability” in the Lowcountry if elected.? That is a subjective term and has room for multiple interpretations.? At its core, it is defined as:

1. suitable for living in; habitable; comfortable: to make a house livable.
2. worth living; endurable: something to make life more livable.
3. able to be lived with; companionable (often used in combination with with): charming but not altogether livable-with.
Many have voiced concerns that with the flooding issue still a critical area of worry, bridge structural and design issues in play, traffic continuing to spiral out of control, safety issues in the waters and cost of living in excess of the national inflationary rate due to a priority on tourism, we have not had any of our promises met.
We would like to take a stab and make a few proposals on how to provide the necessary funding to turn the tide and try and make this a place worth living for our residents that call Charleston home.

 

5 Ways to Raise Budgetary Funding to Provide Solutions to our Growing Liveability Struggles
  • Stronger zoning restrictions and higher zoning fees – Hotels, condominiums, housing, apartments and massive retail complexes are the new norm in Charleston.? When you leave the downtown Charleston area in any direction, cranes are a part of the scenery in all directions.? Construction seems to be running amuck with no signs of slowing down.? One Solution:? Add more zoning restrictions and higher zoning fees to raise more revenue and curtail the speed of expansion.
  • More in-depth land surveys on the long term effects of construction on specific plots of land – There is a growing concern of development in areas that have long term concerns around structural safety, flooding and destruction of wildlife homes and preserves.? With development going up on marshes and traditional flooding areas, there seems to be a lack of ethics and an abundance of greed.? We need to put safety and long term sustainability first.? When will this start to happen?
  • Non-resident tolls for Lowcountry beach entrance – Charge a tool for the entrance to Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Edisto Beach for non-residents.? If tourism is our bread and butter, we should gain additional revenue to fund projects that will help our residents and justify the 5 million plus tourists we have to see flood our area each year.
  • Higher property tax for a period of 3 – 5 years for all new construction – For all new commercial and hospitality construction, we should levy additional property tax for the first 3 to 5 years and then stagger back to the current rates.? Charleston is a commodity and there is a lot of profit to be had here.? We need to acknowledge that.
  • Increase luxury tax on high end items – Some argue Charleston has two classes, rich and poor with a very limited, almost non-visible middle class.? With some hotels charging up to $600 plus a night and high end retail throughout the city, we have an opportunity to levy increased luxury taxes to help fund our local projects.

There are our proposals.? We welcome all comments as well.

Dear Mayor Tecklenburg, we would like our city back

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Dear Mayor Tecklenburg,

As we look back at 2017, we witnessed record tourism in the Lowcountry, rises in sales tax to 9%, restaurant tax at 10.5%, alcohol restaurant tax at 15%, rising cost of parking garages, increases in parking ticket fines, heavier traffic, road construction throughout the peninsula, continued pollution of the skyline with cranes and building development, family businesses continuing to close their doors and locals turning their heads wondering why we are letting this all happen so fast without any type of regulation or control.

The conclusion is that a select few real estate investors are making a fortune off this record setting growth while the local-residents continue to suffer. Why are we taking a backseat to tourism and opportunistic greed?

Maybe, if all this investment money was staying locally in the South, we may have some level of justification, but a tremendous amount is coming from Northern investors. There is irony there given the negative sentiment many have of Northerners moving in and infiltrating our Southern home.

For the last year, we have seen daily esthetic pollution with Lockwood continuing to be an eye sore by the Ashley Bridge, the intimate Joe Riley Stadium being overrun by a massive building development project, Upper King a continued push North with building development and gentrification and new condos/apartments all around the Cooper River Bridge. But, none of this is new to you and your administration as you have been the Mayor of record as the historic city of Charleston is being destroyed dissolving hundreds of years of simple Southern charm.

It is ok, you are not alone. Folly Beach, Mount Pleasant and West Ashley are following suit. With the new digital sign at the entrance of Folly Beach and a giant chair sponsored by Coca Cola on the pier, Whole Foods in West Ashley, Starbucks on James Island and office buildings, condos and hotels in Mount Pleasant and a parking garage at Shem Creek, it seems the end is nowhere in sight.

For those that have lived for many years in the Lowcountry with reasonable rent increases, new pressures are being felt. Older apartments and condos are starting to capitalize on this greedy focused economy, by renovating old units and raising rents to compete with the new developments and cost of living that is rising much faster than the national average.

What are we doing to solve the flooding issue that has plagued our city for generations? Any progress there or just ideas? Maybe we can get money from the Dewberry or Spectator that is getting $450 – $650 a night for a hotel room or the $250 price tag for New Year’s Eve. Maybe the parking garages that have more than doubled in prices in the last two years could provide financial assistance. Just a thought.

How do we explain the 2017 Charleston County budget? The total spent on Economic Development, Education and Health / Welfare is 26.6 Million.? All three combined is 6.9 Million less than Culture and Recreational spending (26% more). We are hurting in our classrooms with academic rankings low and teacher to student ratios becoming unmanageable and yet only 6.6 Million of 480 Million is allocated for Education. Only 16.1 Million was set aside for Health and Welfare when Charleston County has the largest medical system in the state and we have an opioid epidemic that is alarming. It seems spending is not being properly utilized.

You must feel honored knowing in two short years you have already left such a memorable legacy as Mayor of Charleston. We have witnessed the most development since the post-Civil War reconstruction and bear witness to multi-generational family businesses being closed to make way for conglomerate Real Estate Trusts and Investment tycoons.

You are leading a city known for family and tradition into an era where Charleston is becoming a Southern amusement park of high end shopping, dining, hotels and corporate logos.

We hope next year yields some significant changes and the emphasis turns from tourism to the needs of those that live and reside here.

Regards,

Charleston Daily

Is Mayor Tecklenburg’s Promise of “Livability” Real or a Hoax

Waterfront Park

By Mark A. Leon

Just over a year later, we look back at a promise.? During the Mayoral campaign that took two voting days to decide, Mayor John Tecklenburg stood behind the promise of making Charleston “livable” again.? It was a bold statement with much room for interpretation.

Now, we look to today and the future, and it has become clear that “livability” is not about the citizens that have chosen to live their days here in Charleston, but the tourists and the developers that are reaping the rewards of this once great city.

The politicians, media and tourism boards have boasted the year over year increases in tourism and high hotel occupancy rates.? What they haven’t spoken to is the flat GDP of just over 2%.? With double figure increases in tourism traffic and low economic growth, the indicator is that local residents are not coming to Historic Charleston as frequently as they once did.

This is also evident in the closing of local Charleston foundations including Morris Sokol, Hughes Lumber and Bob Ellis Shoes (stores that would be frequented by locals, not tourists).

In 2009, I would work from my downtown apartment on Morris Street for miles and take in esthetic beauty in all directions.? There were pockets of crowds and carriages all around, but that was part of the ambiance of this city.? What was not prevalent were orange cones, deep roadway damage, cranes and endless high rise construction in every major part of the city.? From Joe Riley Stadium, to MUSC, East Bay, King Street, Meeting Street and Broad Street.? This city is being attacked from all directions with the simple goal:? Make a few major developers and investors very wealthy.

Simply put, we are no longer in control of our city.

All the perks of being a local have been compromised and here is how we are suffering:

  • Parking garage rates have increased
  • Most residential parking is now only 1 hour for non-residents 24 hours a day
  • Restaurant tax is 10.5% for food / 15% for alcohol
  • The East Side lost its only means of groceries

Several weeks ago, a group of business owners met to finance free bus service for residents of the East Side to go to Mount Pleasant and Northern Charleston for groceries because their BiLo (Former Piggly Wiggly) closed-down.? Instead of celebrating this generous act, why aren’t we looking at why it wasn’t kept open in the first place.

Cistern Yard – College of Charleston

The Westside Neighborhood has trees uprooted from the sidewalk that are being ignored from the last devastating storm.

Yet, simultaneously,

  • A 1.2 billion-dollar development is going up on Upper Meeting
  • A new hotel is in development to compliment the newly launched hotel on Upper King
  • ?A new housing development is being built on Upper Meeting and Huger Street
  • Lockwood is setting the foundation for a new development
  • A new shopping and dining complex is under construction across from Joe Riley Stadium
  • Sergeant Jasper could see new community rise if all provisions are met.
  • Construction continues on the new MUSC Children’s Hospital
  • Approvals are being finalized for a new bank building on the corner of Calhoun and Meeting
  • King Street is closed off from the Crosstown for the next two years
  • Infrastructure and building construction on the College of Charleston campus

Several days ago, we joked that Charleston was no longer the “Holy City” but the “Crane City”.? Humor aside, there is a fear brewing in Charleston and we are on the sidelines without a means of getting in the game.

We have heard many speak on the social forums that they want the Northerners to stop moving here, yet Charleston is starting to look more like New York or Cleveland than Savannah or Beaufort.

As citizens of Charleston, we will not see our skyline or traffic alleviation from construction projects until 2020 or beyond.? Is that what we signed up for when we were promised “livability”?

We have a voice Charleston.? Maybe, it is time we start looking for answers.? We have local officials whom you have voted in to speak on our behalf.? Utilize them.

Spring Street