By Jim Hicks, Chairman of Lady’s Island Community Preservation Committee
A few months ago, the Beaufort County Planning Department released, for public comment, a draft of the new Community Development Ordinance. The new ordinance proposed that portions of Lady’s Island transition to the new form based type of zoning. To ensure the proposed changes were appropriate for the island, the Lady’s Island Community Preservation Committee met, over a period of months, with representatives from the Beaufort County Planning Department and carefully reviewed each proposed change.
Upon completion it was agreed that the Village Center could benefit from use of the new code and the remainder of the island should retain its present zoning. As the review was being conducted, it became obvious that our present zoning, which was originally developed in 1997 and has served the island well for the last 16 years, needed a close evaluation to ensure it was ready for the challenges of the next decade. In the process of evaluating Lady’s Island present zoning, some basic questions arose to which there did not appear to be simple answers. Here are a few examples of such questions.
Why has the amount of traffic on Lady’s Island roads decreased?
Each year the South Carolina Department of Transportation checks the volume of traffic at key spots on the island and develops an annual average daily traffic number for that portion of road. In the last six years, the daily number of vehicles crossing the Chowan Creek Bridge has dropped by 2,500. With the exception of one spot on Sams Point Road which has seen a small increase, the volume of daily traffic on each of Lady’s Island’s roads is decreasing each year. As to the volume of traffic using the bridges to leave or enter Lady’s Island, the amount of daily bridge traffic peaked in 2006 and has declined each following year.
Why has the student population in Lady’s Island schools declined?
In 2006 the number of children attending Lady’s Island public schools reached a peak of 3,433 students; the island’s public school population has declined each year since.
How many houses have been approved for construction on Lady’s Island but not built and where are they located?
There have been 9,608 residential units authorized for construction on Lady’s Island. To date, construction has been completed on 52% (4,998) of these homes leaving the island faced with a potential growth, without approving another single residential unit, of 4,574 homes.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, is attributed with the famous saying: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” — implying that everything does not have deep a meaning. Without attempting to explain the reason or cause, some of the simple facts which must be taken into consideration when planning for the future of Lady’s Island are:
• Since 2006 the residents of Lady’s Island, St. Helena Island, Fripp Island and Harbor Island are significantly reducing the average number of vehicle trips taken each day and, of those taking to the road, fewer are choosing to leave Lady’s Island.
• Lady’s Island is approved for the construction of enough homes to almost double its present population and the majority of them will be located in the northern part of the island.
• The number of children attending public schools on Lady’s Island has declined each year since 2006 and 50% of the island’s public schools, this school year, have an excess of capacity.
Under no circumstances is this intended to imply that efforts will not be made to determine the cause for the reduction in traffic and public school students or how to best cope with the number of homes approved for construction, but it is offered that these are facts which must be acknowledged without any illusions.