Charleston wants special taxes on new developments on Johns Island to fund infrastructure | New


Charleston’s elected leaders want to raise taxes on new developments on John Island to fund millions of dollars in road improvements, stormwater upgrades and other infrastructure as the region continues to grow rapidly.

City Council tasked the Charleston Planning Department this week with developing plans for a so-called municipal improvement district, which would allow the city to collect additional property taxes from landowners on the island. Johns.

While the city may increase property tax bills for everyone in this proposed neighborhood, Charleston officials have said they are not willing to burden the island’s existing residents with additional costs.

As a result, city staff are considering how to roll out the plan by adding additional property taxes on new developments and land that is undergoing major redevelopment.

This means that anyone buying a newly built home or starting a new business on the island could face a higher property tax bill for 30 years, which is the likely duration of the proposed improvement district.

Councilor Karl Brady, who represents Johns Island and part of West Ashley, said he believes exempting Johns Island natives and existing residents from additional taxes is the fairest solution.

“Most people think it’s fair,” said Brady, who was first elected in 2019. “People who have lived on Johns Island for 10, 15, 20 years feel like it It’s all the newcomers adding to the tension. ”

All money raised through the proposed Improvement District would be dedicated solely to public projects on Johns Island. This means that infrastructure projects in the region would no longer need to compete with other city priorities in West Ashley, James Island and the Downtown Peninsula, where the city continues to spend billions. dollars in flood prevention measures.

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A truck crosses flood waters at the Bi-Lo parking lot on Johns Island after heavy rains on May 20, 2020. City of Charleston may create a special tax district on Johns Island to help fund water improvements storms in the region. File / Lauren Petracca / Staff

The ability to tap into a dedicated funding source could be important for a place like Johns Island, which sits on the outskirts of the city but represents Charleston’s fastest growing area.

The number of residents of the city of Johns Island has doubled over the past decade to an estimated 11,000 people, and this rate of growth is expected to continue in the years to come as new developments are completed. and that the houses will be sold.

There are approximately 4,100 new housing units within the city limits that are in various stages of development on Johns Island, according to the Charleston Planning Department. Many of them lie along the Maybank Freeway corridor, where the city is trying to encourage more dense development.

With so many people flocking to Johns Island, city officials said there was a growing need for public investment in the area. Robert Summerfield, the city’s new planning director, said his team was compiling a list of projects that could be funded through the Improvement District.

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Once this list is complete, the Planning Department will present the projects to City Council and residents of Johns Island. The city will then hold several public hearings required by state law before the improvement district can be formed.

Some of the city’s top priorities, Summerfield said, are road improvements, street lighting, stormwater remediation, new sidewalks, public parks and recreational facilities.

The city is already in the process of acquiring more land next to the existing Johns Island Park, and it plans to create another 26-acre park just off Maybank Highway in the center of the island. The money generated by the proposed improvement district, he said, could help with this type of effort.

City staff have yet to define many of the details of the plan, including which properties will fall under the improvement district and which landowners would be subject to additional taxes.

But Summerfield said the idea behind the neighborhood improvement is something city officials have been considering for some time.

“The staff have been working on it for some time. It’s not a new idea,” he said.

Jason Crowley, who tracks community and transportation issues for the Coastal Conservation League, said the creation of the Improvement District is a new concept that could quickly benefit residents of Johns Island.

Charleston officials, Crowley pointed out, created a community plan for Johns Island in 2007 when the island began to experience many of its growing pains.

This plan, Crowley said, made suggestions that would help maintain green space on the island, reduce road congestion, make the area safer for pedestrians, and build the stormwater infrastructure needed to manage the flow of new developments.

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Over the past 14 years, not all of these recommendations have been implemented. But the extra money generated by the Improvement District could finally make some of these plans a reality.

“This is an opportunity to create the community and place that Johns Islanders envisioned over a decade ago,” Crowley said.

The city’s plan for the improvement district is expected to be delivered to council members in July, but the public hearing and notices required under state law ensure that the special tax district can only be completed sometime after September.

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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