Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Requests from residents and one lone Mount Pleasant Town Council member to rescind approval of a 55-foot-tall structure on Shem Creek to be used as office space and a parking garage fell on deaf ears Tuesday night.
Tex Small, developer of The Shops at Oakland has an approved agreement with Mount Pleasant to build the offices and garage, and the town will pitch in tax dollars to ensure public use of its parking spaces on nights and weekends. In return, the town would pay the project $185,000 a year in hotel taxes for 15 years, or nearly $2.8 million total. It would receive back fees paid by drivers to use the building.
Almost 100 residents turned out, many of who spoke against the building, saying it will be too large and out of character for the creek – the most popular scenic attraction in Mount Pleasant.
An online petition with over 2,000 signatures held no weight in town officials’ minds.
The building will go on a vacant lot at the corner of Mill Street and Coleman Boulevard. There are 275 parking spaces slated for the garage.
Small said the building is an approved use of the private property, and he would move forward with or without a partnership with the town.
Construction may begin by summer’s end. Small said it could open in late spring or early summer 2015.
According to Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Mark Smith, the town sought out a developer to help with the parking issues along Shem Creek. “They did not come to us and they did not receive any backroom or special deal,” he said.
The town has a signed agreement that was signed by previous Mayor Billy Swails last November.
He said the vote to rescind funding was basically to intentionally, recklessly and knowingly breach a contract.
“I do not, have never and don’t believe it to be a sound business decision to put the town in that position at this time. I do believe (and will fully advocate and support) that every single aspect of the contract needs to be performed on by the other side, if not, at the time, we (the town) will be in a much better position to re-evaluate our options and then wisely (in my opinion) evaluate all of our options since the other side could be in breach of the contract (if they can’t perform/meet all aspects of the contract),” said Smith.
“Bottom line, I did what I believe to be in the best interest of the town at this time.”
Smith further explained that last night’s vote was not an up or down vote on the project; it was solely on the Hospitality and Accommodations (ATAX) funding that the town has an executed contract on. These are not tax dollars from the general fund.
“Many have asked why I supported a parking garage. ... that is not the right question though. Please remember, this is privately owned property, a 55-foot building with (or without public parking access) will be built there (as long it meets all local building ordinances). There was a building there before. That site will not remain an empty lot. If anyone would like to step up and offer an alternative parking solution for the Shem Creek area, please bring them forward. We are all a part of the community and working together (as is the case here); we can find solutions. Meanwhile, I do not support subjecting our town to such actions as breach of contract, especially before any agreed upon timelines has not been lapsed or elements of the contract have not been met. I would expect you to expect that much out of me.”
Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson said, “we need to get Tex Small at a meeting at the committee level so we can have some discussion in an open public forum. If I felt council was ignoring the public I would do something, but we can not circumvent the law,” he said.
“It’s not about whether Ken Glasson likes it or not but about the parameters of the law that we took an oath to uphold.”
The misnomer that we’re not listening is completely false and inaccurate but I am not going to step forward and do something that will hurt the town by voting on something that has not even been submitted yet.
We took an oath to represent the residents as well as to honor the laws and ordinances in place that has worked for decades. I’ve spoken to the residents and it is not that they don’t want the parking but they want something that is more aesthetically appeasing and southern in style and a reduced sized.”