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This image shows a pivotal community meeting in Ten Mile, where African American residents gather to address the threats posed by new development projects and climate gentrification. Their determined expressions and the detailed maps in the background underscore their proactive efforts in legal and political advocacy.
The historic Ten Mile community in Charleston County is battling climate gentrification and development pressures while preserving its cultural heritage

The Ten Mile community in Charleston County, South Carolina, stands at the crossroads of history and modern development pressures.

By Darius Spearman (africanelements)

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Key Takeaways
Ten Mile community faces climate gentrification pressures.
Historic district designation provides legal protection.
Proposed development threatens the community’s character.
Climate gentrification displaces lower-income residents.
Community-led documentation and advocacy are crucial.

Ten Mile Community: Historical and Cultural Significance

The Ten Mile community, nestled between Mount Pleasant and Awendaw, holds a unique place in Charleston County’s history. In 2022, it gained recognition as the third Charleston County Historic District. This designation offers the community added protection and oversight from the Charleston County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The HPC ensures that any proposed developments align with the prevailing patterns of existing lots, densities, spacing of homes, and other characteristics that define the historic district.

“The Ten Mile community’s historic district designation in 2022 offers legal protections, ensuring developments align with the community’s historical character.” (Historic Charleston)

The community’s legacy of land ownership, passed down through generations, reflects its post-Civil War rural development patterns. These cultural and familial connections make Ten Mile a unique survivor in Charleston County’s landscape.

Development Threats and Legal Challenges

Recently, the Ten Mile community has been fighting against a proposed development that aims to fill three parcels with more than 40 tract homes. In July 2023, the HPC denied this development because the proposed homes’ architecture and high-density pattern were incompatible with existing houses. This development would drastically diminish the rural character of Ten Mile. Despite this victory, the community still faces legal threats from developers over property rights and zoning entitlements.

“Legal and political advocacy are crucial tools for communities like Ten Mile in protecting their historical and cultural integrity from incompatible developments.” (Post and Courier)

To combat these threats, the community produced an Area Character Appraisal (ACA). This document details existing conditions, such as lot sizes, lot coverage, density, architectural styles, environmental impacts, traffic, and infrastructure problems. The ACA guides compatible development proposals and serves as a vital tool in their preservation efforts.

Climate Gentrification: Broader Context

Climate gentrification refers to the displacement of lower-socioeconomic communities by wealthier individuals moving into less climate-vulnerable areas. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other climate-related disasters drive this phenomenon. Coastal and low-lying areas become less desirable for affluent residents, leading them to higher elevations. This shift increases property values and living costs, displacing long-term, lower-income residents.

“Climate gentrification displaces lower-socioeconomic communities as wealthier individuals move into less climate-vulnerable areas, driving up property values and living costs.” (NRDC)

Examples of climate gentrification can be seen in various coastal areas, including Miami and New Orleans. In Miami, real estate in elevated regions has appreciated significantly due to rising sea levels, causing the displacement of low-income residents. Similarly, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans catalyzed climate gentrification, permanently displacing an estimated 100,000 Black residents due to the destruction of affordable housing.

Community Strategies for Preservation

Communities facing development pressures can learn from Ten Mile’s preservation efforts by adopting several key strategies:

Seek Historic Designation

One of the first steps Ten Mile took was to petition for historic district designation. This status, granted in 2022, means that any new construction must be approved by a county commission, ensuring that developments are consistent with the community’s historical character.

Develop an Area Character Appraisal (ACA)

The Ten Mile community produced an ACA to document existing conditions, including lot sizes, densities, architectural styles, and environmental impacts. This ACA was submitted to the Preservation Commission to guide future development proposals.

“The Area Character Appraisal created by Ten Mile documents lot sizes, densities, architectural styles, and environmental impacts to guide future development proposals.” (Historic Charleston)

Engage in Legal and Political Advocacy

Ten Mile has actively engaged in legal challenges and political advocacy to protect their community. They have taken legal action against developers and successfully lobbied for rezoning to reduce the density of new developments.

Utilize Greenbelt and Conservation Programs

Ten Mile has leveraged greenbelt funding to purchase land and protect it from development, preserving green spaces that contribute to flood resilience and environmental sustainability.

“Greenbelt funding has been instrumental in preserving green spaces within Ten Mile, contributing to flood resilience and environmental sustainability.” (Inside Climate News)

Foster Community Involvement and Education

Community involvement has been crucial in Ten Mile’s preservation efforts. Regular meetings and educational initiatives have helped keep residents informed and engaged in the preservation process.

Collaborate with Preservation Organizations

Ten Mile has received support from organizations like Historic Charleston Foundation, which has provided resources and advocacy. Other communities can seek partnerships with local and national preservation organizations to gain technical assistance, funding, and advocacy support.

Advocate for Policy Changes

Ten Mile’s success in influencing county council decisions, such as the rezoning of their community, highlights the importance of policy advocacy. Communities should push for policy amendments and development moratoriums to gain time to organize and protect their historical and cultural landscapes.

“Communities must push for policy changes and development moratoriums to gain time to organize and protect their historical and cultural landscapes.” (Historic Seattle)

Climate Gentrification: Lessons for Other Communities

The Ten Mile community’s struggle against development pressures offers valuable lessons for other communities facing similar challenges. Here are some actionable strategies:

Seek Historic Designation

Historic designation provides legal protections against incompatible developments. Communities should petition for historic status to ensure any new construction aligns with their historical character.

Develop Detailed Documentation

Creating an Area Character Appraisal (ACA) to document existing conditions helps guide future development proposals. This documentation is essential for advocating for preservation.

Engage in Advocacy

Legal challenges and political advocacy are crucial in protecting community integrity. Filing legal challenges and lobbying for rezoning can help maintain the community’s character.

Leverage Funding Opportunities

Utilizing greenbelt and conservation programs to purchase land helps preserve green spaces and maintain environmental sustainability.

Foster Community Involvement

Regular meetings and educational initiatives keep residents informed and engaged in preservation efforts. Community involvement is key to successful advocacy.

Collaborate with Organizations

Partnerships with preservation organizations can provide essential resources and support. Seeking technical assistance and funding from these organizations enhances preservation efforts.

Advocate for Policy Changes

Pushing for policy amendments and development moratoriums helps protect historical and cultural landscapes. Policy advocacy is essential for long-term preservation.

By adopting these strategies, communities can better navigate development pressures, protect their historical and cultural integrity, and ensure sustainable and resilient futures.

FAQ

Q: What is climate gentrification?
A: Climate gentrification refers to the displacement of lower-income communities by wealthier individuals moving into less climate-vulnerable areas, driving up property values and living costs.

Q: How did the Ten Mile community gain legal protection?
A: The Ten Mile community petitioned for and received historic district designation in 2022, which provides legal protections against incompatible developments.

Q: What is an Area Character Appraisal (ACA)?
A: An ACA is a document detailing existing community conditions, including lot sizes, densities, architectural styles, and environmental impacts, used to guide future development proposals.

Q: How can communities leverage greenbelt funding?
A: Communities can use greenbelt funding to purchase land and protect it from development, preserving green spaces that contribute to flood resilience and environmental sustainability.

Q: Why is community involvement important in preservation efforts?
A: Community involvement ensures residents are informed and engaged in preservation strategies, making advocacy efforts more effective.

About the author:

Darius Spearman is a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College, where he has been pursuing his love of teaching since 2007. He is the author of several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at africanelements.org.