Five of Charleston’s mayoral candidates outlined plans to protect the city from climate change and growing water threats at an Oct. 12 forum co-sponsored by several local environmental and civic groups.
Participants included Micah Gadsden, Clay Middleton, Peter Shahid, William Cogswell, and incumbent John Tecklenburg. Debra Gammons did not attend.
Gadsden is a community activist and co-chair of the nonprofit Friends of Gadsden Creek. She focuses on the role of “green” infrastructure in flood and climate change mitigation. Green her infrastructure uses organic elements such as vegetation to reduce the effects of climate change. She said it was important for the city to protect what green space still remained while allowing certain “gray” infrastructure, such as parking lots, to fall into disrepair again.
“The good thing about green infrastructure is that it improves over time because of its renewable nature,” she said.
She supports increasing access to public transportation, creating more protected intersections for cyclists and pedestrians, and moving cities away from car-dependent infrastructure.
When it comes to enforcing building codes, Gadsden argues that the city, and especially the Architectural Review Board, is creating barriers to building more resilient and energy-efficient infrastructure. BAR is tasked with preserving and protecting Charleston’s historically and architecturally significant buildings within its historic district.
“The anecdotes I’ve heard are that it’s really hard for people to accept more sustainable solutions for their homes and businesses,” she said. “We have to make sure we ease restrictions.”
Mr. Middleton is a former aide to Congressman Jim Clyburn (D.C.) and previously led the City of Charleston’s Business Services Department. He advocates establishing new building codes that apply to both private and public buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said the city should reject new developments that don’t meet these standards.
“You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every development,” he said. “We want to work with developers who want to do a good job and also want to do good.”
The city of Middleton also hopes to move Charleston away from car dependence by creating “10-minute communities,” where residents are a 10-minute walk from schools, workplaces, grocery stores, and other essential services. ing. As mayor, he said he would also create a Clean Energy and Environmental Justice Council to provide the city with technical and social expertise to address the threat of climate change. Mr. Middleton also supports partnering with local nonprofits and the private sector to protect local green spaces and wetlands.
He is committed to partnering with the federal government through grant programs and initiatives like the White House’s Justice 40, which aims to provide aid to historically disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately affected by climate change. and wants to strengthen the city’s resilience to climate change.
Mr Shahid has represented parts of West Ashley in the northeastern part of the city council since 2016. Shahid, like Gadsden, said city zoning policies can get in the way of energy efficiency measures. He advocated for a re-evaluation of zoning laws to make it easier for property owners to implement energy-saving technologies and infrastructure.
“As I look around my West Ashley neighborhood, I see solar panels installed on some homes. There are limitations,” he said. “So one of the things we will do is look at some of the restrictions, remove some of the restrictions and eliminate some of the red tape.”
Shahid pointed to Charleston’s past as a walkable city and said he would like to see a return to dense neighborhoods planned to reduce dependence on cars. He supports more bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly alternatives to cars. He promoted support for banning some single-use plastics in 2018, saying the city should explore similar small steps it can take to reduce pollution of local wetlands and waters.
Cogswell is a real estate developer and former Republican state representative representing the southern tip of the Charleston Peninsula and parts of Mount Pleasant. Many of Cogswell’s climate recommendations focus on energy efficiency and resiliency in building design. He supports his projects with green infrastructure and has incorporated it into previous projects as well. He added that it’s important the city doesn’t bite off more than it can chew.
“I believe green infrastructure is a key element in growing as a city,” he said. “But it’s also very important to maintain it. Many times, we do projects that have good intentions, but if they’re not maintained properly, they actually add to the problem. There is a possibility.”
Cogswell said Charleston needs talented workers to do that and will build relationships with local trade schools to help develop a new climate-fighting workforce. He said Charleston should join with other South Carolina municipalities to lobby Congress for more support to establish clean infrastructure. Mr. Cogswell supports the expansion of public transportation and highlighted his previous work in planning and creating a “transit-centered development” to redevelop the former Naval Hospital on Rivers Avenue.
The current mayor of Tecklenburg has led the city since 2016. He spent much of the forum highlighting the clean energy and climate resiliency efforts the city has undertaken since his inauguration, from passing a climate action plan to replacing street lights with his LEDs. Most of his future recovery strategies involve doubling down on these efforts, many of which are ongoing.
Tecklenburg said he supports stricter building codes and development guidelines to ensure energy efficiency, but state and federal policy limits how much cities can tighten them. It pointed out. He is in favor of partnering with local businesses and manufacturers to build clean energy infrastructure in the city.
“I have been advocating for opening up leases for offshore wind,” he said. “We need to keep promoting it and advocating for it.”
When it comes to conservation, Tecklenburg said the city already tracks the movement of wetlands throughout the region, and the upcoming rewrite of Charleston’s zoning code is aimed at not interfering with the natural movement of these wetlands. Stated.