When: Mo
nday, September 21st 2009
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Deer Park Baptist Church Fellowship Hall
To Be Announced

The Voice of the United Estates of Deer Park
Official Publication of the Deer Park Neighborhood Council
Vol. 15; No. 52 June 2009

by Julia Long

As you know, the civic club doesn't usually have June, July, or August meetings. However, there is a very important matter that requires your input, so there is an informational community meeting at the public library on Otranto Road from 6 to 7:30 on Monday night, June 29. This is so important that, if you cannot come, please call me before the meeting time so that I can get a list of your questions to take to the meeting: my number is 797-0893.

A developer is applying to put low-income-type apartments on Fernwood Drive next to Westview Baptist Church. This land, about 8.4 acres near the intersection of Deerwood and Fernwood, goes back in an L-shape to Deerwood across from Bobby Jameson's house. Some of it is presently planned for single-family residences, and it all would have to be rezoned to allow for apartment buildings.

Bobby Jameson has kindly provided some facts about the proposed development, and the developers and the Housing Authority have provided us with additional information. The plan is for two three-story buildings, about 25,000 sq feet on each floor, with 64 apartments in each building. Federal rules apply because this development is in cooperation with the North Charleston Housing Authority in order to assist the developers in getting possibly up to three-quarters of a million dollars in tax credits for each of the two buildings to cover part of their expenses. The apartments are intended for people aged 62 or older. Guests may remain for 14 days without approval, and then can apply for management approval to stay longer. In a very welcome answer to our earlier questions on safety, we are told that the property will be fenced in with a "protection wall," have a coded gate at the entrance, have a buzzer for entry of people at the gate, require an entrance card for entry into either apartment building, and have a property managing staff present continually. There will be on-site parking spaces (but probably not as much as one space for every apartment) with some charging plugs for electric cars. Government assistance is to be available for those who qualify, which will be kept confidential; the developers told us that 14% of the apartments will be priced for people whose income is about one third of the average for our area, 32% of the units will be priced for people whose income is half the average for our area, and the rest of the units priced for people whose income is about 60 dollars for every 100 dollars of the average income for our area.

Now that some of the safety questions that we asked earlier are being answered, here are the four main remaining concerns that we have heard expressed so far:

Concern #1: PROPERTY VALUES -South Carolina now has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, about 12.1%. These days houses can be difficult to sell. The city voted years ago to allow businesses deep into Fernwood Drive: the hotel is already open. So residents now wonder whether potential home buyers will even consider buying on a street with business at one end and big apartment buildings in the middle. Older people need their home values to stay high so they can sell or borrow against the house in case of serious, perhaps long-term illness. A young family with a mortgage would be deeply concerned if the house became worth less than the amount owed. If you think you might sell your home and move into these apartments, consider whether you will need to make a good profit on your home to be able to afford monthly rent for the rest of your life.

Concern #2: A CHANGE IN THE MEANING OF THE ZONING CATEGORY PDD - A PDD (Planned Development District) is usually a creative, mixed development that doesn't fit into any other zoning category. It is not a name to be used just because a development would be illegal if called by its normal zoning category name. Normally apartment buildings go on R-2 property. There seems to be plenty of R-2 land in the city for this apartment development. But the Deer Park property under consideration is a mix of R-1 and R-3, so it must be rezoned to allow apartment buildings. In the past we have seen that many people's rezoning requests be denied on this basis that it is illegal "spot zoning" to put one kind of zoning in the middle of a street that has no other zoning of that kind, except for a PDD. As far as we can tell, it would be illegal spot zoning to put R-2 in the middle of Fernwood Drive. But this land will not be called "R-2" even though that is where an apartment building normally goes. The request is to rezone the Deer Park land as a PDD, even though it is not the sort of creative mixed development that we have seen before in PDD requests.

Concern #3: ALL PROTECTIVE LAWS BEING OBEYED - The city ordinances say that any PDD must be at least 200 feet wide between any two of its boundaries. This property appears to be less than 200 feet along Fernwood and for about 150 feet back.

Concern #4: COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT PLAN CHANGED - The comprehensive development plan that our neighborhood worked so hard for was accepted by the city and submitted to the state as a good faith plan saying that Fernwood will be built and kept as single-family residences for the next ten years. If this plan is to be ignored now, there seems to be nothing to keep the city from turning the rest of our neighborhood into apartments.

Come to the meeting. Our hope is that we will get reassuring information that relieves all our concerns; that would be wonderful. But we can't get that information unless we ask all the questions we have, the ones that people have already brought up and any new ones that you might have thought of. Here are some of the questions people are already asking:

Question #1: What will an apartment building on Fernwood do to my property values? What financial guarantees will the city put in place now in case the development does lower the investment value I have in my property? Will the city agree to provide money to make up any loss I incur or will all the financial risk be mine alone?

Question #2: Would R-2 be an illegal spot zoning at this location? What makes these two apartment buildings qualify for PDD zoning? Will other developments that would normally be illegal in Deer Park if designated by their usual zoning be able to move in if they are designated as PDD? Can the city's lawyers assure us that no precedent is being set here to let other unplanned developments (like businesses) be placed in our residential neighborhood?

Question #3: Is it true that a portion of the property does not meet the legal requirement for 200 feet between any two boundaries of a PDD? If so, will this development be excused from obeying a requirement that other people have had to obey? Will the law be changed to accommodate this one development, thereby reducing the protections for residents all over the city?

Question #4: If this change in our comprehensive plan is made, not as a matter of long-term planning, but to accommodate a specific proposed development, what will prevent other similar changes from following? Can we depend on the comprehensive plan as a good faith statement of the city’s intentions? Does the city intend other changes to the plan that can affect our property values and quality of life? If the plan doesn't apply now, when would it ever apply? Would a precedent set here bring out many other developers insisting that they get the same privilege?


Garbage Pick-up Schedule
Garbage: Every Wednesday
Leaves/Grass: Every Wednesday
Large Trash: Every Wednesday
(Please note that Thursday will be pick-up day when City Holiday falls on Mon., Tues., Wed.)
Recyclables: every other Thursday - May 28th, June 11th, June 25th

Key Personnel
City Council District 3:  Robert Jameson  824-1500
County Council Rep:  Elliott Summey  200-4244
Neighborhood Crime Watch Representative:  Volunteer Needed!!
N. Chas. Dispatcher: 745-1015
Housing Director:  Darbis Briggmann  740-2560
SPEED Team Rep.:  Jimmy Wagner  745-1069
Code Enforcement:  William Holley  740-2681
CAC Representative Membership:  Linda Brinson  553-8832

Board of Directors
President: Julia Long  797-0893
Vice President:  Dennis Isgitt  797-2455
Secretary:  Chandler Schwede  437-4736
Treasurer:  Linda Brinson  553-8832

Board Mbr. Apptd:  Beth Evans  437-4140
Board Mbr. Elected:  Susanne Azevedo  572-2321
Board Mbr. Elected:  Audrey Carpenter  553-7768
Board Mbr. Apptd:  Mary Hutson  553-4451

Newsletter Distribution:  Jimmy Mitchum  553-0665
                                          Jim Driver  553-0768
                                          Bill Lusk  553-1348
Newsletter:  Susanne Azevedo  572-2321
Disaster/ Preparation:  James Brown  553-4329
Sick & Sunshine:  Susanne Azevedo  572-2321
Voter Registration:  Douglas Azevedo  572-2321

Our Neighborhood Website: www.ourdeerpark.net