Tuesday, May 20, 2014
On Sept. 10, 2013, a meeting notice concerning a Special Planning and Development Committee meeting was published by the Town of Mount Pleasant. The only item on the agenda was “Request for a text amendment relative to a development proposal on Coleman Boulevard at the intersection of Coleman Boulevard and Mill Street.” Citizens reading this notice had no idea that this “text amendment” was actually a request from a developer to amend the Mount Pleasant Code of Ordinances relating to two portions of the Urban Corridor Overlay District.
The amendment provided for a height increase for properties fronting Coleman between Live Oak and the Shem Creek Waterfront Overlay from 44 feet to the ridge, to 55 feet to the eave. I asked for this item to be deferred when I was first re-elected in November 2013 so that the new council members could have an opportunity to review it. However, my request was denied and the subsequent vote was 8-1 for approval with my no vote left standing alone. On Dec. 10, 2013, the second reading had the same result, an 8-1 vote in favor of the amendment.
I subsequently began holding community meetings with the citizens of Mount Pleasant to discuss ensuing issues affecting our town, including, but not limited to, the Coleman Boulevard Overlay District. During these meetings, I made the citizens aware of the 55-foot-tall office building/parking garage that had an agreement executed in November 2013 which included public funding. Immediately, they had concerns and began asking questions and spreading the word to their neighbors about the parking garage. Interest grew and our citizens took their concerns to town council.
I made a motion during the May 13 Town Council meeting to rescind the town’s funding for the parking garage and again it failed 8-1 and that is where the issue stands today. There have been a lot of moving parts in this issue. The town’s attorney concluded that the developer was not vested in the project and has not even filed a plan with the town. Additionally, the town’s planning commission was deadlocked on the issue and sent it to the Planning Committee of Council without a recommendation, so there appears to have been some initial concerns with this project.
That being said, the overwhelming majority of citizens who were against this project, as well as I, have always been above board and completely open, transparent and professional when addressing this issue with town council and our citizens.
However, the same doesn’t appear to hold true for one town council member who was quoted in last week’s Moultrie News (online) and another in the City Paper. Council member Mark Smith is quoted in the Moultrie News (online) as saying, “ ... the vote to rescind funding was basically to intentionally, recklessly and knowingly breach a contract.” Pretty harsh accusations from a newly elected town official about the very people who he recently asked to support him in his run for town council. Additionally, in the recent addition of the City Paper, another council member referred to the very citizens (friends and neighbors) who elected him to office as “a small pocket of zealots.” These so-called zealots include local citizens who are professionals and concerned about the town’s approval of a 55-foot-high office building/parking garage adjacent to Shem Creek, which is the heart and soul of our Mount Pleasant residents. This group of private citizens includes former Secretary of Energy under President Reagan and former South Carolina Governor James B. Edwards accompanied by Mrs. Edwards as well as two former town council members. Not exactly the band of fanatical citizens the councilman alluded to. Personally, I value each one of them as citizens who love this town as much as I do; they are our neighbors who help define our town.
At the very least, a public apology should be given to the citizens of the town. How can we expect our youth to address issues in life that they don’t agree with in a civil manner when adults, elected officials at that, conduct themselves in this manner?
We will not all agree on issues that affect our community, but we should all agree to disagree with an assemblance of dignity.
We’ll move beyond this issue, as well as other issues relating to our town. As we do, I trust that we can do so without the rhetoric of name-calling and innuendos. Citizens deserve the best from their community representation; I believe that’s what’s expected of the leadership of Mount Pleasant.