“Full speed ahead to high court”- an editorial in today’s P&C

“Full speed ahead to high court”,
Post and Courier, January 22, 2012, editorial. 

It has been two years since the Historic Charleston Foundation organized a forum to address the need to strike a “delicate balance” of business, tourism and livability for peninsula Charleston.

And for most of those two years, one topic has remained unresolved — and contentious: cruise ships.

Both those who support unregulated cruises to Charleston and those who are calling for restrictions say it is good news that the S.C. Supreme Court has decided to play a role in the issue by hearing a controversial lawsuit.

At least they can agree on something.

The lawsuit alleges that Carnival cruise ships in port here should be subject to city ordinances including those regulating noise, building heights and signage.

It was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center last year on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Charles Towne and Ansonborough neighborhood associations. The State Ports Authority and the city of Charleston intervened on Carnival’s behalf.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that, instead of the suit proceeding through the court system and eventually ending up in the Supreme Court, the high court will be the first to consider it.

Meanwhile, the SPA is moving forward on its plans to build a new cruise terminal.

The Charleston Communities for Cruise Control is hoping to persuade Carnival to agree to restrictions voluntarily as it has done in other ports.

The Historic Charleston Foundation is awaiting results of an independent study it contracted for to evaluate the cruise industry’s impact on the peninsula.

The city remains on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s watch list as being threatened by the cruise industry.

And there is a movement to convince the SPA to agree to an objective analysis of the port’s property and the most appropriate place on it for the new cruise terminal. Some believe that, by moving the site northward, the SPA would free up more land for valuable residential and commercial development. The SPA contends that it has looked at its options and made the best choice for port operations.

In his recent inaugural address, Mayor Joe Riley referred to the “lively debate in our community about cruise ships.” He rightly said that local sights and sounds, including ships, are signs of a vibrant city.

But he then attributed the debate to a few wealthy people who have moved to Charleston and expect it to be “like a gated community — affluent and exclusive” — an unfortunate dismissal of real concerns of a significant number of people, including lifelong Charlestonians and preservationists.

A two-way, respectful discourse on the issue of cruise ship controls, as the Supreme Court should provide, will be a welcome step in this complicated issue. A civil exchange of ideas also would be welcome in Charleston’s civic debate on the issue.

That civility should start with City Hall.

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