NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — About 100 people turned out at a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed $35 million South Carolina passenger cruise terminal and most who spoke urged regulators not to issue a required state permit for the project.
"The public should know the pros and cons of the proposed site," said Carrie Agnew, executive director of a nonprofit called Charleston Communities for Cruise Control.
She and several other speakers said the South Carolina State Ports Authority did not provide the required information to state regulators on the impact of the proposed terminal on the city's historic district.
Agnew said her group is not opposed to cruises, but said the Ports Authority needs to study other areas in the city away from the historic district. The plan calls for creating the new terminal in an old warehouse on the city's Cooper River waterfront.
Of 34 people who spoke, 26 opposed the project that has already sparked lawsuits in both state and federal court. Many lived in the historic district and said the ships bring pollution and traffic congestion.
A number of those opposed to the project said it should include landside power so that the large cruise ships don't belch smoke into the air while idling at the dock when passengers are getting on or off the vessel.
Two physicians told the hearing that the smoke from the vessels poses a health hazard for residents and tourists alike.
About 200 people turned out last spring for a similar hearing. But the plans were revised and the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management held another hearing.
Robert New told the hearing Wednesday that Charleston has always been a port city.
"It's the soul and essence of our community," he said, adding that the city has had a working waterfront long before many of the condominiums on the waterfront were built. A number of those opposed to the project said they live in those buildings.
"It's our lives and our community and what our community has always been. Shame on you," New told opponents of the project.
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, said he does not oppose the cruises, although he noted he has problems getting to work when cruise ships are docked and visitors are crowding into the city. He also said that perhaps there should be shore power for the vessels.
"I think we can reach a reasonable compromise," he said, urging both sides to sit down and try to resolve their differences.
The controversy has been ongoing for several years. Back in 2010 Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056 passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that the city only had a handful of seasonal cruises.