Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg doubled down on his promise to fix the city’s growing drainage problems during his State of the City address Tuesday night.
“For more than 300 years, the people of Charleston have lived with the threat of hurricanes, high tides and flooding,” Tecklenburg said. “But now, with rising seas, a history of ill-advised development in some areas, and three major flood events in three years, we simply must make flooding and drainage our city’s top long-range priority.”
He announced plans to hire the city’s first full-time floodplain manager to help study problem areas and focus on creating more rigorous storm water standards for new developments. In last year’s address, he announced Emergency Management Director Mark Wilbert would take on those duties part time.
The mayor listed ongoing improvement projects, such as the replacement of the Low Battery wall that’s expected to break ground this year.
He also mentioned the city has dedicated $2 million more this year to improve and maintain drainage systems.
To shore up more funds for large-scale projects, Tecklenburg floated a new idea: Put some accommodations and hospitality tax money in the city’s drainage fund.
He said he plans to ask the state Legislature to consider a bill that would give Charleston that option.
“Under current state law, we simply don’t have the authority or the flexibility to ask our 6 million visitors to contribute in a significant way to keep Charleston safe from flooding and extreme weather in the years ahead,” he said.
Touching on other livability issues, Tecklenburg said the Transportation Department is working on completing a citywide parking study as well as a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan.
To address Charleston’s shortage of affordable housing, he added that the city is working on a plan to utilize the $20 million affordable housing bond that city voters approved in November.