Construction Boom Overwhelms Planning Agencies

The Charleston area is experiencing a construction boom across the tri-county area, with construction cranes and bulldozers being seen all over the Lowcountry.  New commercial, industrial, and residential buildings are being built in downtown Charleston, across the river in Mount Pleasant, and up the Interstate 26 corridor from North Charleston past the Summerville area.  The growth in building construction has led to a huge increase in workload for city planners.

Municipal planning offices across the Lowcountry are reporting historically high numbers of plans and permits for every type of building, from home improvement renovations to apartment and hotel buildings, and new residential communities and commercial and industrial building projects.  The Post & Courier reports that Jacob Lindsey, the city of Charleston’s director for Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, is seeing a record high number of plans being submitted.  “We have a record number of submissions for review right now,” he stated. “The city is growing and we are a successful place,” Lindsey added. “We have been taking active steps during the past year to manage the workload.”

At a recent real estate forum Mayor Teckenburg addressed some concerns of local developers, including Greystar Partners, the Charleston-based apartment developer, about the length of time it takes for plans and building permits to be considered and approved by the planning board. The mayor said the work load has been spread out between two separate panels of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) to help speed up the process of review.  Mr. Lindsey said that “this has effectively cut the workload in half for the BAR. He added that the planning office is in the process of hiring additional staff. “We are taking all the steps to make sure we manage the workload properly.”

Other city planners in North Charleston and Goose Creek are faced with similar workload challenges.  In North Charleston, planning and zoning director Gwen Moultrie said her staff processed more applications in recent years due to the  development of the Palmetto Commerce Park area, “but residential and commercial is all over” the city.  Goose Creek currently has 113 applications for residential and commercial building permits, an unusually high number for the third quarter.

Mount Pleasant is the fastest growing city east of the Mississippi River, and continues to have record high levels of building activity.  Eric DeMoura, town administrator of Mount Pleasant, said that the municipality has seen an increased number of permit applications for additions and repairs to homes. The Post & Courier reported that the town has about 30 applications for additions and repairs each week, about 10 applications for new homes, and five per week for commercial projects. Mr. DeMoura said “it averages out to about a 3 percent growth rate,” which is about the same level the town was at in 2005, before the recession.

Source: Post & Courier, “Building Boom Swamps Local Planning Agencies,” by Warren Wise, November 7, 2016

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