Mayor disagrees with assessment of Charleston as endangered city - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Mayor disagrees with assessment of Charleston as endangered city

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Mayor Joe Riley says that he disagrees with the World Monument Fund's recent assessment of Charleston as one of the most endangered historic cities because of cruise ships.

"The World Monument Fund is simply incorrect in saying the size of cruise ships has increased in the last few years and that the size obstructs the view of the city or harbor," Mayor Riley said in a statement released on Thursday. 

Mayor Riley said that the best views of the harbor at the waterfront park and South Carolina Aquarium do not suffer any obstruction from any cruise ships.

This comes after Charleston was placed on a watch list for most endangered historic cities because of cruise ships. The World Monument Fund released a statement Wednesday adding Charleston to the watch list, which it releases twice a year.

Dana Beach with the Coastal Conservation League is part of the movement against the growing cruise industry. He read what the World Monument Fund had to say about cruise ships chipping away at Charleston's charm.

"Wow, its absolutely amazing," Beach said.

The WMF press release states "The cruise ships obstruct views both of the harbor and the town, while the potential for hundreds of thousands of passengers to disembark in the town every year is upsetting the balance between commercial development and the residential areas that make the city livable."

"These ships sit at the dock, they put out fuel and the soot settles on these houses and that's significant, because the physical infrastructure is being degraded by cruise lines," Beach said.

The city says cruise ships are expected to pump more than $43 million into the local economy and bring in 400 jobs. Beach says he knows people don't want to see the floating cities disappear, but there needs to be more regulation.

Earlier in the year, Charleston was placed on a different watch status for the same reason by the National Historic Trust.

"The City has a balanced and sustainable tourism plan that 'will enable both tourism – including cruise ship- and the Historic District to thrive' and precisely because of Charleston's closely guarded balance, it is both puzzling and more than a little disappointing to be so misrepresented by the Fund," Mayor Riley said."No representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation or the World Monuments Fund has ever analyzed or even reviewed the nature of our cruise business in Charleston."

Mayor Riley's full statement can be found below:

"The City of Charleston has been and continues to be highly sensitive to its unique place as a valuable cultural-heritage site.  The City has been continuously cited for its outstanding commitment and management of the balance between being a livable city and being a city that is welcoming to our 4.3 million visitors from around the world.  The City is proud of its active and vital Board of Architectural Review, established in 1931 with the creation of the first preservation ordinance in the United States. We are proud of our active Tourism Management efforts that are sought after and emulated in tourism destinations around the United States.  We are proud of establishing perhaps the first Livability Court in the United States that was given special recognition by the United States Conference of Mayors a few years back. 

The World Monument Fund is simply incorrect in saying the size of cruise ships has increased in the last few years and that the size obstructs the view of the City (we are not a town) or the harbor.  The very best view of the harbor can be found at the City's award winning Waterfront Park or the City's built and sponsored, sustainability award winning South Carolina Aquarium, neither of which suffer any obstruction from the one cruise ship in port at a time, but the view from miles of publicly protected water's edge along most of the peninsula of Charleston (a direct result of the City's efforts) has been and continues to be spectacular. This modest cruise ship operation is responsible for 200 direct jobs on our waterfront and contributes significantly to our local businesses. The planned redevelopment of Union Pier and construction of a new cruise terminal is completely consistent with the civic-minded plan crafted through a very public design process by the South Carolina State Ports Authority.

Importantly, the City  and the South Carolina Ports Authority have reached an agreement that no more than one cruise ship can be in the port at any one time, the passenger count would not exceed 3,500 passengers (which is larger than the ships which are coming in)] and there will be no more than 104 port visits per year.  Any deviation from these agreed upon numbers would require extensive public hearings by the City.  All of these commitments were sought out and made to ensure the City remains a highly livable place.  This year the Port of Charleston will have a total of 88 calls by cruise ships at Union Pier.   Only 20 of these are port of calls.   That's not for a week or month – but for the entire year.   In 2012 we will have a total of 84 cruise ships calls.   As planned and expected, our cruise ship business is appropriately scaled to the historic city of Charleston.  

Ironically, it is the City's very desirability as a great place to live and as a tourist destination (which is growing not declining), that causes the City to maintain a laser like focus on tourism management. Had the City been given the courtesy of being contacted by the World Monuments Fund prior to being placed on their "watch list," all of the above could have been fully discussed.

The City has a balanced and sustainable tourism plan that "will enable both tourism – including cruise ship- and the Historic District to thrive" (words taken directly from the Fund's watch list release on its website) and precisely because of Charleston's closely guarded balance, it is both puzzling and more than a little disappointing to be so misrepresented by the Fund. No representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation or the World Monuments Fund has ever analyzed or even reviewed the nature of our cruise business in Charleston. 

The City of Charleston works every day to save and enhance the treasure that is our city."

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