Wednesday, June 25, 2014
For those of you who have not followed or participated in our effort to develop a Vision Plan for the town of Summerville, let me update you. The town has never had a Vision Plan. Council decided that with all the pressures of growth we’re experiencing the time was ripe to look at current assets and future needs over the next 25 years.
The town advertised for firms interested in preparing the plan in the fall of 2013. Five companies responded and council interviewed each of them in lengthy sessions. Bids ranged from $160,000 to over $400,000. After careful consideration council chose The Lawrence Group, whose bid was $213,000. They began work in November by interviewing council and staff, stakeholders, property owners, developers, and a cross section of residents and local leaders.
In February they conducted a well publicized weeklong planning charette at the Cuthbert Center in Azalea Park. Sessions ran well into the evening hours to accommodate residents who work and 500 residents came forward to express their ideas about Summerville’s needs for the future.
The Vision Plan is a large document with lots of information and illustrations and is available on the town’s website at www.summerville.sc.us. An overview of the plan was presented by The Lawrence Group at our June council meeting and council gave it first reading.
This plan is not a permit to build houses, shopping centers, roads, parks, schools, or other municipal facilities. It is vision of what Summerville could look like in 2040. For any of these wish list projects to take place, property owners, developers or public entities will have to find funding and follow the normal approval process.
I compare the Vision Plan to a Rubik’s Cube because over the next 25 years there will be many twists and turns as our leaders guide development in our town. Guiding principles of the Vision Plan are to keep Summerville family friendly, connect Summerville to the region with transportation choices, offer rich economic opportunities, maintain our small town charm and have a leadership team that makes smart investments that yield high results.
The plan was aired last week by the town Planning Commission for public comment. Some expressed concern that 880 new housing units could potentially be built in the downtown area through infill and redevelopment of vacant or underutilized sites. Those houses could be built under current zoning regulations but that does not mean they will be. Others expressed frustration over our traffic congestion and fear future development will only make things worse.
Town Council is keenly aware of our traffic problems and we have plans for a new road into Summerville from the new Sheep Island Interchange that should be under construction this time next year. I personally, along with Town Engineer Russ Cornette, am working with the state Department of Transportation and others on completion of the last leg of the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
Summerville will be dramatically impacted by the thousands of new homes and apartments being built in the East Edisto project just south of town and the Nexton project just north of town. Those new families will be using our streets and parks and recreation facilities and yet we have no control over that.
That is why it is absolutely critical that we have a Vision Plan for the things we can control within the city limits.