Wednesday, August 27, 2014
It’s time to engage in the simple truths relative to the Shem Creek parking garage/office building. For the townspeople, Shem Creek is most definitely worth every effort in saving.
It’s important to note that the townspeople of Mount Pleasant welcome both change and responsible growth, but not at the expense of losing our own identity, character or unique coastal charm. Mount Pleasant will always be a strong and vibrant community because of the resilience of its people.
During July 2013, the developer of the parking garage/office building sent a request to the Mount Pleasant Planning Committee that he discovered his project would not meet two present requirements in the current overlay district. He requested to raise the height to 55 feet and add a flood exemption, both of which he received. A meeting notice, text amendment, was submitted for a September 2013 meeting notifying residents/citizens of a development located at the corner of Mill Street and Coleman Boulevard. What’s peculiar is that this notice was submitted without any specifics or details which were previously known in July. The Special Planning and Development Committee convened on Sept. 10, 2013, and within 15 minutes decided to approve the proposal without any knowledge of a definitive or vested project. In November 2013, the Parking License Agreement (PLA) was signed and executed by the town, again without vested rights attributed.
The agreement included $2.8 million dollars of ATAX (public) funds to be disbursed to the developer over 15 years without any return on the investment to the town.
On May 30, 2014, Mayor Page provided an email statement to the public that the project was economically unfeasible for the developer to pursue. Again, the PLA was signed by the town in November 2013 and here we are 10 months later with no approval of what the developer initially proposed. As of June 4, 2014, according to the town, the developer was not vested, did not have a viable plan under review, had requested the town grant yet another concession and argued that Church Street not be considered a street. Lastly, the developer didn’t meet the terms of the PLA and garnered absolutely no public support for a project expecting $2.8 million dollars in public funds.
Placing a 55-foot-high structure, resembling the height of the Boulevard, on the parcel contiguous to Shem Creek will soon take the place of the most despised building in Mount Pleasant (not because of its appearance, but because of its location). The guidance documents are specific to the special considerations and requirements of Shem Creek and are referenced below.
If the developer can’t perform what he’s promised, why should the town be obligated by a higher standard, yielding to his height request as of July, later realizing that he can’t provide what he promised in his proposal? Does anyone actually believe that folks who are currently using the surface parking lot and aren’t paying to park there now, are going to willingly pay to park in a garage? We already have proof of this scenario at the Boulevard where parking has become a nuisance for existing homeowners living on King Street, where vehicles are bumper to bumper down the local resident-maintained “right of way.”
It’s been said that the town is under contract with the developer and to rescind funding “was basically to intentionally, recklessly and knowingly breach a contract.”
Since the developer can’t provide the number of spaces which he agreed under the current agreement (PLA), many are questioning who’s actually breaching the contract?
Wasn’t it the goal to maximize parking spaces as stipulated in the special planning and development meeting minutes of Sept. 10, 2013?
If the current administration continues its course towards this project, it’s believed that public perception will most likely judge them unfavorably. They, save Gary Santos and possibly one or two others, are also causing a public perception that our public officials are violating their solemn obligation towards the protection of our town.
It’s already been determined that the guidance documents have been ignored, which council’s predecessors provided to protect Shem Creek.
Failing to stand with the townspeople will certainly result in a lack of public trust which all of us are hoping doesn’t happen. Not being able to admit making and walking back an obvious mistake is an irreparable lapse of good judgment.
Shem Creek must be protected and preserved in accordance with all four of the guidance documents (including the CRAB). This is a question of what the town’s administration does going forward.
The town continues to have an opportunity to get this right, but to ignore this opportunity and public responsibility, will be an egregious and well-documented failure.
Referenced guidance documents:
1. 2002 Preserving the Character of Shem Creek
2. Coleman and Ben Sawyer Boulevard Revitalization Master Plan
3. TOMP Comprehensive Plan
4. CRAB – Coleman Revitalization Advisory Board
On behalf of the 90-plus volunteers at East Cooper Medical Center (ECMC), I would like to offer our congratulations to the hospital and staff for receiving the second consecutive “Circle of Excellence” award from Tenet Healthcare. As volunteers, we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in being part of the East Cooper family. We witness each day the compassion, hard work and dedication of the employees and physicians at ECMC. We watch as they take pride in going the extra mile to help a patient, a family member or a co-worker. The Mount Pleasant community should be proud of the accomplishments of their hospital. I know the volunteers are.