Seven area business and membership organizations are collectively urging Mt. Pleasant Town Council to change the Growth Management Plan which was given initial approval (by a vote of eight to one) at the Town Council Meeting on Tuesday night, April 14th. The organizations are:

• Charleston Home Builders Association

• Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce

• The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors

• Coastal Conservation League

• Lowcountry Local First

• SC Community Loan Fund

• Urban Land Institute

The proposed plan would eliminate bonus densities, increase fees for recreation and development and eliminate increased density in mixed use planned development. All of the organizations expressed a common concern that the proposed Growth Management Plan would promote more sprawl, hurt business growth, and make the Town even more unaffordable, particularly for young professionals and first time home buyers.

Town Council voted to delay the second reading on the Plan for four to six months in order to work with stakeholders that have concerns over the proposal as it stands.

The group is also urging the Town to bring in outside expertise to meet with staff, elected officials and stakeholders to help craft a solution that helps the Town manage growth and meet the long term vision of creating a community that promotes economic development and is attractive to people of all ages.

“Our major concerns center around the elimination of bonus densities,” said Bryan Derreberry, President and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. With this proposal, the Town is eliminating the ability to construct the types of housing and development that young professionals are telling us they want. The Town will become even more expensive and further promote sprawl.”

“Local business is an integral part of the economy and plays a significant role in what makes Mt. Pleasant unique. These one of a kind businesses add to the desirability of the location. Being able to hire employees that are within close proximity to where they work, and locating affordable housing near commercial property is key to insuring their success and the success of Mt. Pleasant,” said Jamee Haley, Executive Director, Lowcountry Local First.

Michelle Mapp, Executive Director, South Carolina Community Loan Fund stated, “While we don’t disagree that the Town has a growth management problem that is a direct result of its historical preference for low density, auto dependent, single family housing, we do disagree with a short sighted plan that eliminates increased densities and raises taxes and fees, while not addressing the ongoing negative transportation impacts that result from having an imbalance between affordable housing and the Town’s workforce. There is both a need and a demand for multi-family and mixed-use development in Mt. Pleasant. If the design of these projects is the issue then the proposed Plan does nothing to address the real issue. We are unfairly equating density with growth and unwanted design to the long term detriment of the entire region. Housing is an economic development issue and you cannot effectively address one without addressing the other.”

“Growth and density – in the right place with attention to form, function, and infrastructure – can add to the character and vibrancy of a community,” said Lisa Turansky, Chief Conservation Officer at the Coastal Conservation League. “The more the town accommodates growth without increasing density, the farther they push people away from urban centers, ultimately creating traffic jams on arterial roads like Highway 17, Coleman Boulevard and Mathis Ferry. The future of Mt. Pleasant should include more options for pedestrians, bike facilities and public transit, as well as a trail system and green space. None of these options preclude density. If anything, density makes them financially feasible.”

“It is vital to the long term social and economic health of the Town to promote policies that provide a mixture of housing options for police, fireman and teachers as well as young professionals that grew up in Mt. Pleasant. This Plan further erodes the ability of these groups to live in the Town. The Town must step back and work with all business and community leaders to promote more sustainable, equitable housing policy”, said Philip Ford, Executive Director, Charleston Home Builders Association.

“While we understand the Town’s growth concerns, we are asking them to take a step back and conduct additional analysis, and to fully consider some of the unintended consequences of stifling growth and development – such as potentially artificially inflating both residential and commercial real estate prices and making the Town unaffordable for current and future residents” said Wil Riley, CEO of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors(R).

Moultrie News