CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – An Augusta-based developer has filed a lawsuit against the City of Charleston over plans to build an eight-story apartment building on Calhoun Street.

SE Calhoun LLC is a development company headquartered in Augusta, Georgia. In their lawsuit, filed Monday, the firm said they spent $12 million to purchase a property at 295 Calhoun Street.

The firm applied to have the zoning changed to allow their complex, and the city approved the change which would allow a building – up to seven stories – to be built on the land. But that building would have to be approved by the Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

The plan to build an eight-story apartment building with a parking garage was ultimately denied. The company appealed, and it was denied by the BAR for a second time.

According to the lawsuit, SE Calhoun LLC said they changed their plans after their original denial based on suggestions made, and city staff approved those changes – however, on August 25, 2021, the BAR again denied the plan.

“Despite the staff recommendation, and the fact that Appellant had complied with the requirements from the prior denial, the BAR voted 5-0 to deny the application,” the lawsuit read.

The city said in addition to the height, the look of the building needs to be changed.

“It’s not necessarily the height itself – it’s the height as it relates to the massing, the material usage in some cases, I think, that have been the issues that they’ve really discussed at those meetings,” said Robert Summerfield, Charleston Director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability.

This lawsuit also calls into question whether the whole BAR approval process in general is constitutional or not. That has some preservationists very concerned.

“It would be the wild west here. Basically, people could build whatever they wanted within their allowable zoning, height and setbacks and all of that. In terms of architectural quality, I think it would be a real problem,” said Winslow Hastie, President and CEO, Historic Charleston Foundation.

The city has 30 days from this past Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit.