Town making great strides in constructing pedestrian and cycling facilities

  • Friday, June 6, 2014

Mount Pleasant's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is crucial to the vision of interconnectivity because road construction prior to today, did not include such.

The Master Plan was adopted a year ago and is a guide with an action plan that accommodates bikes and pedestrians on all projects moving forward.

Also, any applications for renovations will have to comply with new guidelines. Incentives are also available if commercial projects have a bike facility where cyclists can park and encourage employees to use that mode of transportation to and from work.

Many neighborhoods were built without bike and pedestrian facilities. There are a great deal of right-of-ways that could be utilized to construct multi-use paths.

The plan is available in its entirety online at www.tompsc.com. About $15,500 is budgeted for this fiscal year towards equipment for town facilities that are lacking equipment such as bike racks.

Next year, $96,000 will be available to partner with other agencies to implement portions of the action plan. Brad Morrison, transportation director for the town, said officials have been proactive in implementing and requiring pathways.

Tom Bradford, director of Charleston Moves – a bike advocacy group, commended the town for the progress and said to put the teeth in it to implement an eight-year timeline for getting people on bikes and not relying on automobile transportation.

Sweetgrass Basket Parkway

Town officials are bidding out a section of the Sweetgrass Basket Parkway adjacent to the new Jennie Moore and Laing Schools being constructed along Six Mile Road.

The bid schedule of the entire project will begin in August and the company selected will have 10 months to complete it.

Under an agreement with Charleston County, the road must by open by August 1, 2015.

Shem Creek Parking Garage

In a memo sent to Jim Owens, a resident leading the effort to stop a joint agreement between developer Tex Small and the Town of Mount Pleasant to build a parking garage, it was stated that the garage might not be built.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page said she had the opportunity to discuss the issue with corporate counsel and gain an understanding that the developer has sent a series of letters to their attorney requesting information regarding the recent changes to the overlay district.

According to Page, parking is and has been a problem at Shem Creek.

A few years ago, the town performed a feasibility study to determine whether a public parking facility was possible at the location they are discussing today, she explained. The feasibility study revealed that it was not financially prudent for the town to construct and operate a parking facility.

The Post and Coiurier reported that developer Tex Small said Monday that he still plans to pursue construction.

The Moultrie News could not reach him for confirmation.

In 2013, the town became aware of possible plans by a developer to construct a parking facility/office building at Shem Creek. The group seeking to build has entered into a 99-year ground lease with the property owner.

Under current zoning regulations, the tenant/developer has the right to construct a parking facility/office building – this is a permitted use and approval of town council is not necessary.

Any construction is subject to town regulations and standards, however, the tenant/developer has the absolute right to construct a parking facility.

“Knowing this, the town decided to negotiate an agreement wherein it would reserve a certain number of parking spaces in the proposed facility,” she said.

“If a facility was to be built anyway, the town had the opportunity to spend a fraction of the money (compared to the cost of a public facility) and reserve a significant number of spaces for the public.”

An agreement was negotiated and the town committed to reserve a significant number of parking spaces for the public if the developer was able to construct a parking facility.

The developer sought to construct a facility with approximately 275 spaces.

Council approved the license agreement in the fall of 2013. This was voted on at a regular council meeting.

As of now, the developer has not submitted any plans to the town for approval.

Important to note

– No plan to construct a parking facility has been submitted to the town.

– Town council has not approved any such plan.

– The town is only committed to spend money on parking spaces if a facility (that meets the minimum provisions of the parking license agreement) is constructed.

– The town is not partners with the developer and would have no say in the construction or operation of any facility.

– The developer could build a parking facility/office building without the negotiated license agreement.

According to Page, “The parking license agreement is not/was not an approval of a parking facility. It is simply a commitment to pay for reserved spaces.”

In the fall of 2013, town council amended the overlay district ordinance related to height requirements in flood areas.

Over the last six to seven months, council, with the input of the public, further amended the overlay district ordinance. “The changes related to several issues, one of which is the setback lines in the area where the parking facility/office building would be built,” Page explained.

Town council approved those amendments over the objections of the developer. As a result of the amendment (and the changes in the setback lines), the developer now claims that construction of a parking facility is “economically unfeasible.”

“It appears, based on these claims by the developer, that they will not be able to build a parking facility under the amended overlay district ordinance due to economic feasibility reasons,” Page said.

They are still legally permitted to build such a facility because it is a permitted use.

Tex Small recently wrote to the town attorney suggesting three legal theories to support their position that they are not subject to the recent amendments, but instead are grandfathered in under the old rules.

These theories are:

– That they have a vested right

– That a parking facility is a civic use and an exception to the setback and development requirements

– The Church Street does not meet the legal definition of a street and therefore no setback is necessary.

Attorney David Paglarini informed council that in his opinion all of these arguments are without merit.

He is of the opinion that the developer does not have a vested right, will not construct something that is a civic use and that Church Street meets the legal definition of a street.

Paglarini believes that the developer is subject to the amended overlay district ordinance and the more restrictive setback requirements.

Page said town officials have no control over what the developer does at this time.

They can submit a plan to construct a parking facility/office building (though they have claimed that such a project is economically unfeasible); they can submit another plan, do nothing, or make some other unknown request.

“It is our understanding, and this is not confirmed, that if the developer cannot move forward with a parking facility/office building they will move forward with development of an office building,” Page said.

“Since the developer has not submitted another plan or notified the town that it does not intend to honor the agreement, it is still legally viable.

“If the town were to take pre-emptive measures to terminate the agreement, it could give the developer the opportunity to sue the town for breach of contract even after they have claimed it would be economically unfeasible to build a parking facility.

“Council rightfully, properly and responsibly resisted attempts to prematurely terminate the agreement,” said Page.

For more information on the Town of Mount Pleasant and the town council, visit www.tompsc.com.

For more updates from the desk of the Moultrie News editor, Sully Witte, please follow Sully's Scoop on Twitter @SullysScoop and like Sully's Scoop Facebook page.  

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