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Charleston’s Comprehensive Water Plan Moving Forward

The City of Charleston Fiscal Year 2022 budget funds several of Historic Charleston Foundation’s preservation priorities that will drive the advocacy agenda for the coming year and will likely bleed into next year. Funds have been appropriated for a citywide comprehensive water plan, as recommended in the Dutch Dialogues Charleston report and by the Army Corps Peninsula Seawall Advisory Committee, to act as a guide for decision-making about flooding and water management. The water plan would integrate all previous and current drainage plans, several existing city plans, and hazard studies then assess and fill data and planning gaps. Further, it would identify a prioritized list of projects, planning recommendations, and regulatory changes needed to guide the City’s investment and response to its water risks. This project is important as it will strategically examine all of Charleston water-related hazards — surge, tidal, riverine, stormwater, groundwater, and compound flooding – and how they are exacerbated by sea level rise. Responses to the city’s request for proposal (RFP) were due May 5, and we expect that the city will bring on a consultant team this summer to commence this important work.

We anticipate RFPs being issued by the City later this month for two additional HCF priorities that were also funded in this year’s city budget – the new peninsula plan and zoning code overhaul. The current plan for the peninsula was adopted in 1999, and there have been considerable environmental, demographic, social, and economic changes since then that must be addressed strategically and comprehensively. The zoning code overhaul is needed to address many deficiencies, including adding elevation-based zoning, as recommended in the recently adopted City Plan and the Dutch Dialogues Charleston report. A zoning code overhaul could steer development away from flood-prone, low-lying areas, while also providing a unique opportunity to address many other issues related to our arcane code and suburban zoning categories.

Advocacy Forum at The Charleston Museum, May 19, 2022

HCF’s recent Advocacy Forum, Plan Charleston, was convened to engage experts on the most acute challenges to livability and quality of life in Charleston, such as housing affordability, density, transportation, resilience and flooding, and diversified economic development that should be addressed in these city initiatives. The comprehensive water plan, new peninsula plan, and zoning code overhaul will inform planning and development decisions and resource prioritization for at least the next 20 years. Historic Charleston Foundation looks forward to continuing community engagement in each of these processes.


Featured image photo credit: Jared Bramblett