Council chambers too small to hold 526 supporters, critics

By Valencia

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Tuesday evening, Charleston County officials had to open an overflow room to accommodate all of the people who attended the county council meeting discussing the extension of I-526.

The council heard presentations from both sides. The first to present was Robin Welch with "Nix 526". Welch also lives on James Island.

"Please hear me on this. No one, not me, not anyone in this room is truly advocating for no build, no progress, no improvement," said Welch. "What we are advocating for, what we believe is possible, is better build."

With a lengthy PowerPoint presentation, Welch explained the alternatives she and dozens of others would like to see, and asked council to think about the people involved.

"You came to county council to make the world a better place. You'll never get a better shot than this."

Second to present was Charleston mayor Joe Riley. He asked county council if the city could become a partner in the project.

"The county's got us to this point. They got the grant. They did all the design work and all the heavy lifting and achieved that. And it's an opportunity for the city to kind of put our shoulder to the wheel now and help it move from here to completion," said Riley.

Mayor Riley's presentation talked about how much of an improvement the project would be for traffic in the James Island/Johns Island area. But some county council members questioned how much.

"These aren't drastic changes and your presentation just talked about parking lots and impassible. It can honestly be impassible either way," said Colleen Condon, a county council member.

On the other hand, some council members pushed the fact that there are no alternatives.

"Telling these folks that they are going to get these other traffic solutions is disingenuous," said Elliott Summey. "They're not going to get them because there's no money to give them."

After four hours of deliberation, those against 526 want council to consider how the project will impact them.

"Please look into your heart and pray," said Welch.

Click here to view the full presentations discussed at the meeting.