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BAR backs Sergeant Jasper site settlement

Construction
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The Board of Architectural Review – Large voted to approve a settlement that would allow The Beach Co. to build a project based on its Building in the Park – Modified plan. (Rendering/The Beach Co.)

The Board of Architectural Review – Large unanimously agreed Wednesday afternoon to a settlement for the Sergeant Jasper redevelopment.

Earlier this week, Charleston City Council also approved the settlement, which allows The Beach Co. to redevelop the site on Broad Street and vacates a recent order by Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr.

The judge issued an order saying that the BAR acted outside its powers when it denied the company’s plan based on height because the city ordinance specifying the board’s authority does not include height.

City attorney Frances Cantwell said the order “did a lot of damage to the integrity” of the BAR, and without the order being dropped, the city would have not agreed to the settlement.

“I know that the order is out there and everybody has read it, but the point is it will have no force and effect. It will have no precedential value. Somebody is going to wave it at you, but it will have been an order that was issued and then withdrawn,” Cantwell told the BAR.

BAR members share opinions

The five BAR members appeared to disapprove of The Beach Co.’s plan, called Building in the Park – Modified, but voted in favor of the settlement anyway.

BAR member Jay White called the vote “pretty extraordinary, but not in a wonderful way.”

“It is well put to say that this is a settlement, meaning that it is not perfect for any party anywhere,” White said. “But I think what gets us to this point is that there is now, in this community facing such enormous development pressures, so much more at stake regarding the institution of the BAR and its continued authority over development in the city than there is at stake for one building.”

Fellow member Janette Alexander said the only positive for the city is the 0.75-acre public park that The Beach Co. must build at the nearby St. Mary’s Field. Jerome Clemons said he sees the settlement as an effort to bring everyone together to continue the progress of Charleston.

Bob Faust said he still thinks the project is too large for the site, but he agreed to the settlement to move the process forward and create a project that will be aesthetically pleasing.

“I’d like to ask the developers to think about what we’ve gone through and to think about those neighbors that have opposed you through this whole thing. And maybe take a look at trying to think about their thoughts as far as density,” Faust said. “I know there are things that you can do.”

BAR chairman William Applegate called it a “challenging moment” and the product of many years of hard work.

“As it stands and as we plan to move forward, the BAR will retain the authority it has over the building construction in the beautiful city of Charleston,” he said.

Beach Co. reaction

Beach Co. representatives did not speak during the hearing, but CEO John Darby issued a statement afterward.

“The BAR holds a vital role in maintaining the standard of excellence in Charleston architecture,” Darby said in the statement. “We are grateful that Mayor (John) Tecklenburg showed strong leadership by setting forth a clear path for the redevelopment and are optimistic that there will be clear criteria for future applicants.”

He said the complexities of a project need to be understood by all parties to create a building that everyone is proud of.

“We have a few more steps to go, but are very encouraged by the progress shown today,” Darby said.

Objection to hearing

Randy Pelzer, chairman of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association’s committee for BAR and zoning matters, objected to the meeting being held, saying there was no notice of the hearing posted at the property and not enough prior notice given on the city’s website to allow for public input.

“We don’t think that this matter is being handled in a transparent and proper fashion for a public body as required under the rules of the city,” Pelzer said. “So we object to this. We think that any attempt to modify or change the prior board decision without adequate public notice should not be allowed.”

Chairman Applegate noted his objection and then moved for the board to enter executive session. No other comments were made by the public during the meeting.

Reach Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144.

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