Proposed Changes to Charleston County’s Zoning & Land Development Regulation Ordinance

As noted during the January 12, 2021, meeting of the Town Council Ways & Means Committee, the Charleston County Planning Commission held a workshop on January 11 to consider proposed amendments to the county’s Zoning and Land Development Regulation (ZLDR) ordinance. Among the changes discussed during the workshop was a proposal to eliminate the county’s R-4 residential zoning district, which allows up to 4 dwelling units per acre. The R-4 district would then be replaced by a new R-6 residential zoning district, which would allow up to 6 dwelling units per acre.

While Charleston County has exclusive control over zoning and land development regulations in the unincorporated areas of the county, such changes have the potential to adversely impact neighboring communities. If adopted, these proposed amendments would significantly increase allowable densities in the vicinity of Seabrook and Kiawah Islands, as well as parts of Johns Island.

The Johns Island Task Force, a nongovernmental organization that follows development activities and advocates on behalf of the Johns Island community, has closely monitored these proposed amendments and their potential impact to the community. Task Force members have also maintained open lines of communication with leaders from Seabrook and Kiawah Islands.

One specific area of concern in our area is a large, unincorporated tract of land that lies between the Towns of Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island. This 300-acre parcel, which is currently zoned R-4 in the county, extends from Seabrook Island Town Hall all the way to Kiawah Island Parkway (near the entrance to Cassique), and completely surrounds the Freshfields Village development. If the amendments proposed on January 11 are adopted, the zoning designation of this property would change from R-4 to R-6, and the maximum allowable density would increase by 50% from 1,200 to 1,800 units.

Prior to its workshop on January 11, the county’s Planning Commission received dozens of public comments in opposition to the proposed changes to the R-4 district. Town Administrator Joe Cronin also submitted written comments on behalf of the town. During the workshop, the Planning Commission considered these comments and directed county staff to reconsider the proposed changes to the R-4 district, specifically as they relate to the sea islands communities. County staff was also directed to prepare revised language for the next Planning Commission workshop, which is currently scheduled for February 8.

Following the county’s workshop on January 11, the Town Administrator had an opportunity to speak at length with Joel Evans, Director of the Charleston County Zoning and Planning Department. During this conversation, the Town Administrator stated that the proposed densities (6 dwelling units per acre) and minimum lot sizes (5,000 square feet) would be out of character with existing development in our area and would create an additional burden to existing transportation and utility infrastructure. Mr. Evans confirmed that the Planning Commission had requested changes to the proposed language in an effort to better protect the sea island communities from the proposed elimination of the R-4 district. 

The town will continue to monitor this situation. Residents who wish to follow the activities of the Charleston County Planning Commission may find more information here.

-Submitted by Town of Seabrook Island