Posted: June 29, 2023
In 2020, Charleston County proposed a plan to widen SC Highway 41 to 5-lanes through the Phillips Community, an historic African-American settlement community dating back to the 1870s, that Phillips, HCF, hundreds of residents, and other advocacy groups staunchly opposed. Unprecedented growth in Mt. Pleasant and neighboring Berkeley County over the last two decades have placed immense pressure on this stretch of highway, and there is a need to relieve traffic congestion and improve road capacity. Responding to public sentiment and recognizing that the road widening plan would do irreparable harm to the Phillips Community, Charleston County Council unanimously adopted a redesigned Compromise Plan in 2021 that balanced the impacts of the project across the communities in the project area, meaning that no single community would bear the brunt of the impact. While there are unfortunate impacts to wetlands that will require mitigation, any of the proposed traffic improvements for Highway 41 would have a wetlands impact.
The Phillips Community is an historically significant African American settlement community established by freedman in the 1870s and rooted in Gullah traditions and values. It is one of only a handful of surviving historic African-American communities East of the Cooper. Today, many of the people living in the Phillips Community are direct descendants of the original freedmen founders and live according to the same settlement patterns that their ancestors did. Consequently, Phillips was designated as Charleston County’s first historic district in 2021, and a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is pending the National Park Service to designate Phillips as South Carolina’s first Traditional Cultural Property, a major precedent-setting nomination.
The Phillips Community residents have thrived in this place for the last 150 years, and the traffic congestion in Mt. Pleasant along Highway 41 is not their fault. This community should not have to bear the burden for the strain to transportation resources caused by development that has occurred over the last 20 years. The Highway 41 Compromise Plan was unanimously adopted to limit impacts to this historically significant area and balances those property impacts across this corridor. Recently, Charleston County submitted the Compromise Plan to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control for review and permitting, which triggers a public comment period. The Corps will consider these public comments in their determination of whether to issue a permit for this project, and impacts to historic properties is one of their areas of consideration.
Let them know:
Do you have questions about Hwy 41, the Phillips Community, or this public process? Reach out to Cashion Drolet, Chief Advocacy Officer at [email protected]