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Laurel quarrel brewing — with good reason

The Post and Courier has been reporting about the development of Laurel Island, a former landfill located on north Morrison Drive. A number of questions have been posed, including the speed at which the approval is progressing, what restrictions will be placed on what’s built, the lack of communication with the community and the vague nature of the building plan.

Given that the developers describe the development as a “billion-dollar project,” obviously the city is hungry for this massive tax-base windfall.

According to the Post and Courier, project planner Jacob Lindsey stated, “The opportunity at Laurel Island is the chance to place new workplaces and residences in a central location, where this development will enhance the community without detracting from an existing neighborhood. That’s a unique opportunity. This is growth in the right place.”

Without distracting from the existing neighborhood? Is this sarcasm?

Developers plan to turn the two-lane residential street Cool Blow into the access point for a bridge that will be used for commuters coming and going from the development’s 4,260 residences and more than 2,000,000 sq. ft. of office space. Even at a conservative estimate, that will put 10,000 cars a day driving down a residential street.

Why would they do this?

Developers say the city has demanded it. Is this a safety issue, because freight trains may stop and “trap” the residents on the island? Sounds inconvenient for the wealthy homeowners and businesses, as they scurry about their businesses. Is it to ensure they can evacuate when the once every decade hurricane hits Charleston? If so, I’d venture to guess they can tell the train to move, as lives are at stake.

But let’s come back to reality. Who says the developers even get a bridge? Was that guaranteed before they bought the land?

Have no doubt — this issue is personal for me, because I live on Cool Blow Street. Let me tell you a bit about the reality of this idea:

These thousands of cars will be passing within 20 feet of the entrance and exit door of Meeting Street Academy, a rigorous academic school for financially-disadvantaged kids of exceptional promise … which is majority African-American. When school lets out, parents are lined up around the block to pick up their kids … on Cool Blow Street. The danger of increased traffic to the children and parents will be obscene.

Developers report that the school “wants” to move the parking around the block, which is humorous at best — the current system works perfectly, because practically no one currently drives down Cool Blow. The developer claims they “wanted” to start the bridge down the far-more-commercial Romney Street, but “engineering problems made that impossible.”

Is it possible that the influential property owners along Romney Street are what made it “impossible”?

Laurel Island commuter traffic will also come within five feet of the area’s park, playground and basketball court. The playground and basketball court are used almost exclusively by the residents of the public housing, one block away. I cannot count the number of times I have seen African-American children as young as five biking, crossing and walking down Cool Blow Street.

Is there a chance that these commuters might be coming home after a long day and will be tired and distracted? Maybe coming home after a few drinks at a local restaurant or bar?

Their solution for the park issue, no doubt, will be to put up an unsightly fence — and everyone knows a child can never find a way around a fence.

As stated previously, I live in the One Cool Blow Street condominiums and, “conveniently,” none of us were notified about this bridge. No one from the city did so much as send a postcard, post on our bulletin boards or put a sign outside by the park.

Why would this be? Because we’d object, of course.

So with no middle-class citizens objecting until the last minute and the disadvantaged African-American community lacking the resources to fight city hall, I’d say their strategy to get the bridge built is working perfectly. No one who “matters” is there to stand in the way.

I’d like to know when, in the history of Charleston, a two-lane residential street in a white neighborhood was turned into a commuter street leading to a bridge? Would the city have allowed the James Island Connector to run through the Crescent? The Ravenel Bridge to enter Charleston South-of-Broad?

Of course not.

The developer says, “The city is insisting on a bridge and Cool Blow Street is the only possible place for the bridge to go.”

This development for the rich does not trump the fact it will wipe out property values and endanger the lives of dozens and dozens of families who live on Cool Blow. It does not trump the lives of the hundreds of children who live in the area and play in the park. And it does not trump the danger posed to the children who go to school on Cool Blow St. and the parents who pick them up every day.

I emailed every county councilman, every city councilman and Mayor Tecklenburg. I was ignored by the mayor; a total of four elected officials responded. My thanks to City Councilman Sakran for responding with some information.

Virtually no one knows where Cool Blow Street is … which is why this is being considered and seems to be a “done deal.” It is inconceivable to me that the developers would buy Laurel Island without assurances from the city that, if a way to build a two-lane bridge could be found, they’d approve it.

If you’ve never driven down Cool Blow St., set your GPS and drive it yourself. Rest assured you will be equally outraged this ever made it past the first brainstorming session in which the horrible idea was discussed.

If, like myself, you are fed up with the out-of-control development on the peninsula and care a modicum about black residents once again being steamrolled, I encourage you to contact your elected officials.

Perhaps you’ll have better luck getting them to respond to you.

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