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Latest News in Johns Island, SC

CCSD board could finalize plans for new Johns Island elementary school Monday

JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — All signs are pointing towards a new elementary school coming to Johns Island very soon.On Monday night, the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees will finalize plans for the school.As of right now, the district’s plan is...

JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — All signs are pointing towards a new elementary school coming to Johns Island very soon.

On Monday night, the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees will finalize plans for the school.

As of right now, the district’s plan is to build the new elementary school near the intersection of Brownswood Road and River Road.

Some of the items up for discussion tonight include possible changes to attendance lines, the future use of Mt. Zion Elementary School, and any possible traffic concerns.

The latter being one of the biggest items of discussion as the new school is expected to bring over 200 more cars to River Road per day and extend the current parent commute at Mt. Zion over eight miles.

But district officials said they believe new traffic modifications will help to ease residents’ concerns.

“Members of the community are very, very happy about getting this new school. They're more concerned about student achievement than distances,” CCSD District 9 Board Representative Dr. Helen Frazier said.

Details of the proposals were initially approved by the board on September 12 in a 7-1 vote. Those traffic concerns are expected to be addressed by extra roundabouts on River Road, among other traffic modifications.

“How do we make sure that traffic is not an issue with the location of the new school. And that study has been done and roundabouts have been put in place to try to offset that,” CCSD board chair Rev. Dr. Eric Mack said.

The district also held two community interests meeting over the month of September to residents of Johns Island, specifically, those who have children currently going to Mt. Zion and Angel Oak elementary schools-– which will be the two schools most affected.

Right now, the Swygert's Landing area, where the school will be built, falls under District 9.

Those students currently go to Mt. Zion Elementary School, but Mt. Zion could be out of commission once this new school is built.

If this happens, students from Head Start to first grade would attend Angel Oak elementary, while second through fifth grade would be at the new school. In this proposal, Mt. Zion Elementary School would be converted to a community center.

Members of the board say the biggest benefit to this plan is its impact on attendance lines, or lack thereof, as the new system would effectively take over mt. zion’s attendance lines

“By combining the two schools, we're in a situation where we don't have to draw lines, we don't have to rezone. If one school gets larger or smaller, we're in really good shape by going this route,” said Chief Operating Officer for CCSD Jeff Borowy.

The new elementary school would accommodate 700 students, however in community interest meetings there was also interest to keep Mt. Zion Elementary School open.

If the proposal is approved tonight, the elementary school is expected to be up and running by the 2024 -2025 school year with construction starting in 2023.

The official vote on this proposal will take place at the Board of Trustees meeting tonight at 4:15 p.m. at CCSD headquarters on Calhoun Street.

The school will be funded by the one-cent sales tax in the county with a budget of $4.1 million.

Newly proposed Charleston City Council districts give Johns Island its own representative

After a decade of booming population growth, Johns Island may get its own representative on Charleston City Council.But making that change could cost a sitting council member their seat.The island is now in District 5, which also spans much of outer West Ashley. It is represented by Councilman Karl Brady, who lives in West Ashley.Two newly proposed City Council district maps...

After a decade of booming population growth, Johns Island may get its own representative on Charleston City Council.

But making that change could cost a sitting council member their seat.

The island is now in District 5, which also spans much of outer West Ashley. It is represented by Councilman Karl Brady, who lives in West Ashley.

Two newly proposed City Council district maps make Johns Island its own district without any extension into West Ashley. That means the City Council member to represent it would have to live on Johns Island.

“There is no one on council right now that drives our roads every day, sends their kids to school here, works here or lives here,” said John Zlogar, chairman of the Johns Island Task Force.

The group was established in 2013 to bring together residents and local officials to address Johns Island-specific issues.

While Zlogar said he has no issue with Brady, he said he would like to have a council member who can put their sole focus on the island.

“We will feel like we have someone that has our voice,” he said.

The island, which is partially within the city of Charleston and partially within unincorporated Charleston County, has deep roots in agriculture and the city’s Black history. Several Black family farms have run their businesses on the island since Reconstruction, when formerly enslaved laborers took over former plantations.

An “urban growth boundary,” established across the island limits where agricultural land must be protected and where development is allowed. Most of the city’s side of the island is located within the urban growth boundary and as a result has seen a massive influx of residents looking for a lower cost of living than the city’s core. Between 2010 and 2020, District 5, the district with Johns Island and West Ashley, grew a staggering 154 percent.

The redistricting process

Charleston Chief Innovation Officer Tracy McKee has led the city through the redistricting process three times in her career. Factoring in population growth between 2010 and 2020, McKee and city staff have been in the process of redrawing the council district boundaries for months.

“Four council members live on the peninsula, but we’ve had more growth in Berkeley County on Daniel Island and on Johns Island,” McKee said.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population and demographic data that governments use to redraw voting districts. In 2020, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Council voted last summer to delay redistricting until after the fall 2021 election.

Officials try to balance the population size of each district as well as their geographic spread. In Charleston, for example, it would be impractical to include Daniel Island and outer West Ashley in the same district.

Initially, city staff put out one proposal in July. That plan kept all sitting council members within their current districts. None of them were at risk of losing their seat or having to run against each other to keep their seat. But the proposal split Johns island into three districts that included other areas of the city as well.

The map was met with some criticism for the wide span of geography each district covered. Districts were stretched from the peninsula far into West Ashley and District 11, covered parts of West Ashley, James Island and Johns Island.

The League of Women Voters published a commentary in The Post and Courier calling for more compact districts.

“Drawing districts to protect incumbents means the maps defy logic in many places. James Island remains divided into three different districts, one with very dubious contiguity as it crosses briefly over West Ashley and onto the peninsula. Johns Island, now all in District 5, will be divided into three different districts, diluting the voices of those residents,” the league wrote.

The league now supports the new proposals, mainly because the districts don’t stretch as far across the city.

“They keep communities together. These really prioritize citizen interests,” said Leslie Skardon, the director of advocacy for the League of Women Voters.

Impact to incumbents

On Aug. 28, city staff unveiled two alternative maps that took some of that feedback into consideration. The two new maps, referred to as 1A and 1B, are almost identical except for their effects on two current peninsula districts.

Both maps make Johns Island its own district.

To create the Johns Island district, city staff proposed two options. They can move District 3 or District 6 off of the West Side of the peninsula to only cover West Ashley. If District 3 moves off, District 6 will absorb the portion of the West Side that is currently in District 3.

Because District 3 Councilman Jason Sakran lives on the peninsula, he would be drawn out of his district. He would have to run for District 6 against fellow Councilman William Dudley Gregorie. But that seat is not up for election until 2025. In the meantime, depending on when council decides to make the maps effective, a special election would determine who represents the new West Ashley-only version of District 3.

The other scenario would be that District 6 would move off of its portion of the West Side of the peninsula. In that case, Gregorie, who lives also in the West Side, would be drawn into Councilman Sakran’s District 3. Because District 3 is up for election in 2023, the two would face off sooner.

Sakran said he would be OK with running against Gregorie in 2023, but he is most favorable of the original map that keeps all council members in their respective districts.

“You are overhauling peoples’ elected representatives to the tune of 40 percent of the city’s population,” Sakran said of the new proposals.

According to the city, if the original proposal is accepted, about 30 percent of the city’s population will end up in new council districts. If either of the alternatives are chosen, that number will move up to 39 percent.

Another factor in the process is the establishment of minority-majority districts. Districts 4 and 7 on the all three map proposals are majority-minority districts. They cover the upper peninsula and part of West Ashley, respectively. When the maps were last redrawn in 2010, the city went from having five majority-minority districts to three. Now the city is guaranteed to have two. As demographics shift, it’s difficult to group minority voters together and ensure their voice is in the majority in any part of the city, McKee said.

City Council will review the map proposals at its Sept. 13 meeting. No action will be taken. A public hearing will be held in the fall. Residents can view the maps and leave comments online the city’s redistricting “Open Town Hall” webpage at www.charleston-sc.gov/Redistricting2020. Email comments are accepted at redistricting@charleston-sc.gov.

New Johns Island development lines up 9 commercial tenants year ahead of opening

You’re seeing The Post and Courier’s weekly real estate newsletter. Receive all the latest transactions and top development, building, and home and commercial sales news to your inbox each Saturday here.The new 16-acre Hayes Park mixed-use development coming to ...

You’re seeing The Post and Courier’s weekly real estate newsletter. Receive all the latest transactions and top development, building, and home and commercial sales news to your inbox each Saturday here.

The new 16-acre Hayes Park mixed-use development coming to Johns Island has lined up nine commercial tenants more than a year before it opens.

A Simple Tree, Grace Frederick Design, High Steaks Butcher Shop, Jimmy John’s, Somm Wine Bar, New Leaf Builders Design Center, Opal Aesthetics, Seaboard Builders and Weightspace are among the signed tenants on the five acres of commercial space. They will begin opening in December 2023.

The development by Charleston-based New Leaf Builders also includes 56 residences, including single-family attached houses and townhome options. Residential sales information will be released in November.

About 1,500 grand trees have been protected on the site that’s been in the works for several years as a destination for John Islanders to live, work and play.

“Given the high visibility and scale of the grand trees on this property, we spent considerable time designing these buildings to work with the existing features of the property,” said Adam Baslow, founder of New Leaf Builders.

“To deliver the best product for the community and bring Hayes Park??????? to life, we worked around all the trees we could while protecting the natural wetlands on the rear of the property,” he said.

A pair of 100,000-square-foot office buildings and an 800-car parking deck are planned where Regal Cinebarre once operated on Houston Northcutt Boulevard.

652: Address on St. Andrews Boulevard where a new French restaurant is in the works.

17: Number of years a West Ashley cafe served up breakfast and lunch before it closed Sept. 30.

350: Number of apartments planned in North Charleston??????? where the developer hopes to win approval to fill wetlands.

48,387: Square footage of new Publix supermarket that opened Sept. 28 in Moncks Corner.

+ On the way: A three-story building with a restaurant and living space is planned on downtown Charleston corner where a church once operated.

+ Trucking in: A Nashville-based trucking company recently opened in Palmetto Commerce Park where a developer plans to build commercial structures for retailers or restaurants near the juncture of Palmetto Commerce Parkway and Ladson Road.

+ Tour of homes: The Charleston Symphony Orchestra League has set the date for its upcoming tour of homes??????? on Kiawah Island.

The Medical University of South Carolina wants to build a six-story building on President Street to house the College of Health Professions???????.

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Potential Johns Island elementary school may fix overcrowding

Traffic was the number one question on people’s minds at a meeting about a proposed elementary school on Johns Island.The Charleston County School District presented updates on the plan to build a new elementary school at a community meeting June 30 at St. John’s High School. The auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, students and community stakeholders – and they had questions ranging from zoning to funding to bus routes.The school has been in the works for several years. The district hosted two commun...

Traffic was the number one question on people’s minds at a meeting about a proposed elementary school on Johns Island.

The Charleston County School District presented updates on the plan to build a new elementary school at a community meeting June 30 at St. John’s High School. The auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, students and community stakeholders – and they had questions ranging from zoning to funding to bus routes.

The school has been in the works for several years. The district hosted two community meetings in September about the project, which will be funded by the Phase 5 sales tax referendum that was extended in November 2020. It was originally passed in 2010 and allows a penny of every dollar spent in Charleston County to go toward school construction, renovation and maintenance projects.

Though revenue doesn’t start coming into the district until 2023, CCSD chief operating officer Jeffrey Borowy said they’ve started planning the project early to expedite the process.

He said significant growth on Johns Island has underlined the need for the school. District 9 has three elementary schools – one is a Montessori, while the other two, Angel Oak Elementary and Mt. Zion Elementary, are public schools.

Both Angel Oak and Mt. Zion are experiencing overcrowding, and Mt. Zion hasn’t been renovated in years, Borowy said.

The site tentatively chosen is along River Road on 55 acres of land near Swygert’s Landing. While a portion of it is wetlands, the school would be built on the highlands. The district has been looking for a viable location for the school for four years, and vetted eight properties.

“It was a challenge to find,” Borowy said. “We’ve been looking for land for a long time and evaluated many sites.”

Parents, frustrated by the potential site’s location, inquired about building the school on the Mt. Zion Elementary property. Borowy explained it was considered as a potential site, but it was rejected after discovering the septic system underground would have to be overhauled.

The proposed two-story school will cost $41 million and be able to house 700 students, with the potential to add capacity for 200 more – plans include the option to add another wing of classrooms if needed.

Most attendees’ concerns during the meeting last September regarded traffic – that continued to be the main topic on community members’ minds Thursday night.

The district is wrapping up a months-long preliminary traffic analysis, but some parents still fear the school will only worsen traffic on Johns Island – especially now with the prospect of parents picking up students from two different schools far away from each other on the island.

Angela Barnette, director of planning and real estate, said the district is working with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to come up with a way to improve this. One of the strategies is adding two roundabouts near the school.

Borowy said in an interview with The Post and Courier before the meeting that community members’ concerns are valid, but construction plans include methods to ensure that traffic will flow smoothly.

“We’ve been doing our due diligence,” he said. “Today’s regulatory hoops we have to jump through are pretty exhaustive.”

Mt. Zion Elementary would close and possibly become a family center. Head start students, pre-K students, kindergartners and first graders would attend Angel Oak under the new plan, while the new school would house grades two through five. Some were concerned that young children would have to ride the bus for 11 miles each day, while others were disappointed that their students would have to attend a larger school.

“It keeps us from having to rezone,” said District 9 board chair Monica Smith “Zoning now with all these new developments, it would be holy hell.”

Borowy added that one of his major priorities is avoiding a rezoning situation in which one school houses a disproportionate amount of low-income students, which he said the current concept prevents.

Brad Taggart, who started the Johns Island Parents for a New Elementary page on Facebook in 2014, said it was created out of frustration when Angel Oak was renovated.

“I think it’s awesome that CCSD listened when we said we needed something on the east side of the island,” he said. “It’s important that Johns Island has two good schools and they’re both successful.”

Board chair Eric Mack and board member Helen Frazier, who represent the district along with Erica Cokley, were in attendance.

In August, Borowy and his team will take the proposal to the CCSD board of trustees. If it’s approved, construction will begin next March, and the school will open in the fall of 2024.

Proposed redistricting maps could unite Johns Island under one district

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The redistricting process for the city of Charleston is well underway, and Tuesday night the City Council and the public will review potential renderings for the new districts.Some Johns Islanders are advocating for Johns Island to be all one district, and for the first time in Charleston’s history, there is a potential it could be.Peter Rubino, a re...

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The redistricting process for the city of Charleston is well underway, and Tuesday night the City Council and the public will review potential renderings for the new districts.

Some Johns Islanders are advocating for Johns Island to be all one district, and for the first time in Charleston’s history, there is a potential it could be.

Peter Rubino, a resident of Johns Island, says the original draft from the city split Johns Island into three districts.

Through email campaigns and spreading awareness, he and other advocates were able to get it down to two districts, and after tonight, hopefully, one.

“If you don’t speak up, then you’re not going to get what you need,” Rubino said.

He said having all of Johns Island in one district would give Johns Islanders a real say in their future, and true influence in city decisions.

He said he wants the person who represents Johns Island to live on Johns Island, with the hope that the shared experiences of the island will lead to more impactful decision making.

“We want someone who’s going to live here, and understands the issues, what the desires are of the people who live here and have to put up with the traffic and the growth and all of those things. Because if you don’t live here, you don’t see all those things that are going on,” Rubino said.

Tuesday night, he, along with other advocates, plan to attend the City Council Meeting to continue the fight for one district.

The city of Charleston’s Chief Innovation Officer Tracy Mckee said two scenarios will be presented tonight.

She said the first one prioritizes minimizing change, but splits Johns Island into two districts.

“In that scenario, Johns Island has two representatives, but each of those representatives also represent parts of West Ashley as well as James Island,” McKee said.

She said the second, which keeps Johns Island under one district, prioritizes compactness and communities of interest.

In that scenario, Johns Island has only one representative.

Regardless, Mckee says the City is doing its best to listen to the public and accommodate their desires.

“We have made a really good effort to get public opinion this time and bake that opinion into our plans as much as possible,” Mckee said.

As of now, Johns Island is a part of a larger district in West Ashley. Up until this redistricting, it did not have the population to be its own district.

Tuesday’s meeting is at 5 p.m. at the Charleston City Hall at 80 Broad Street. Rubino encourages those passionate about redistricting on Johns Island to sign up to speak.

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