Students in John Martin’s business law classes are usually up-to-speed on selected Charleston County transportation projects years before orange cones dot a roadway indicating that a new road project is about to begin.
The students’ inside perspective comes from Martin’s knowledge of the Charleston County transportation system since he serves as a member of the Charleston County Transportation Advisory Board which advises Charleston County Council on pending county-wide transportation plans. Last year, Martin was appointed by Charleston County Council to serve as a commissioner on the 14-member Board.
Martin, partner and principal attorney for the Martin Law Firm in Charleston and full-time business law and hospitality law adjunct professor in the School of Business, shares with his students the same advice that he gives business managers and property owners: be proactive in learning about how County and Municipal infrastructure can impact profitability and minimize legal entanglements.
He wants students to see that transportation planning, land planning, land use and zoning weigh heavy in business location decisions. By being proactive and attending, for example, public meetings of the Transportation Advisory Board, a potential business owner in Charleston County can see the plans for new roads, new traffic patterns, and schedules for improvements to existing roads. This information can weigh heavily in decisions to expand or where to locate a business.
Residential and commercial development decisions are often tied to the status of infrastructure such as integrated road and highway systems. For example, if a developer knew six years ago that the Palmetto Commerce Parkway would be complete and open in 2011, that developer may have elected to have acquired and developed commercial property in the area, knowing that the roads slated to be built in the near future will support his plan.
The Transportation Advisory Board makes recommendations to the Charleston County Council on the Comprehensive Transportation Plan which includes proposed sales tax expenditures for county-wide transportation projects. Within the past decade, the Board has provided input on the expenditure of over 170 million dollars for transportation projects in Charleston County. In the upcoming years the Board will ultimately have input into expenditures exceeding $1 billion.
Some of the projects the Transportation Advisory Board has reviewed, advised and commented upon are quite visible to those who live and travel in the county on a daily basis such as the expansion and extension of the Palmetto Commerce Parkway, upgrades to intersections along US -17 from the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to I-526, Maybank Highway improvements, county-wide bike/pedestrian enhancements, and numerous drainage improvement projects.
As a commissioner, Martin sees projects from their inception. He uses these projects and infuses a proactive approach to decision making and problem solving into class time to share the business and legal implications of the process of transportation infrastructure development with students.
“Discussions and approvals for the widening of Highway 17 North (Johnnie Dodds Blvd) began nearly six years ago and the final results are now being seen as the project nears completion,” says Martin. “For businesses considering opening or expanding six years ago, the construction impact would have been an important consideration in their business plans. These are real cases of the need to understand the proactive approach to business that students learn about through dialogue in my class.”