CHARLESTON, S.C. (Legal Newsline) — On May 2, Charleston, S.C., city attorney Francis Cantwell submitted two motions in the Sergeant Jasper zoning case requesting Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. delay the certificate of appropriateness and to reconsider, alter and amend his decision.
“The stakes are quite high,” said Winslow Hastie, Chief Preservation Officer with Historic Charleston Foundation. “There are major concerns about the ramifications of [the judge’s upcoming decision.]”
Demolition on the 14-story Sergeant Jasper apartment building in downtown Charleston began in October 2014. The Beach Co. went before the zoning board in February 2015 to request rezoning on Broad St. to planned unit development, but the decision had to be deferred due to the hundreds of Charleston citizens that came out to oppose the project.
The Beach Co. changed design plans and tried to work with the city, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Harleston Village Neighborhood Association, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association in the Charleston area and the Board of Architectural Review (BAR).
The Beach Co. originally wanted to build an 18-story apartment unit on the site, but reduced the number of stories to 13, which is the same height as the current building. The BAR still voted to deny its application.
According to a statement position, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association “strongly supports the Charleston Planning Commission’s proposal to eliminate the remaining 3X height zones in the Old City Height District and limit the height for the main Sergeant Jasper tract to 55’.”
Three plans were denied by the BAR. The Beach Co. appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court, which ordered mediation with one representative from each party. After three-and-a-half days in closed sessions, an agreement still was not on the table.
The mediator advised the judge that the two sides were at an impasse, thus the court would be required to rule.
In April, Nicholson ruled that the BAR acted arbitrarily and outside its powers when it denied The Beach Co.’s modified plan. The BAR denied The Beach Co.’s plan based on height, scale and mass, but Nicholson said in his ruling, “The BAR does not have the authority to ‘rezone’ property by denying applications … when the proposed building meets the applicable zoning restrictions.”
Nicholson ordered the city to grant The Beach Co. a certificate of appropriateness, but one of the motions filed by Cantwell asks the judge to reconsider this decision because the application was for a conceptual review.
Each project actually goes through three stages of review before receiving the certificate of appropriateness. The conceptual review is the first stage. Thus, the Sergeant Jasper property has not gone through the full process, the city says. The court has not set a date on which the new motions will be heard.
Hastie said, “We’re all waiting on the judge’s decision. [Depending on the outcome], we’re all left with some big decisions. This case has broader ramifications than just Charleston.”
Charleston adopted the first historic preservation zoning ordinances in the United States in 1931. Now, there are over 2,300 communities who have adopted these laws.
Hastie said, “Whether this case is appealed to Columbia is a decision to made by all the organizations involved.”