Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) continues pleas with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to increase their 2019 groundwater permit reduction.
At the Tuesday, Sept. 10 Mount Pleasant Town Council meeting, MPW General Manager Clay Duffie sought council’s support and gave a presentation on the application timeline and reasoning for a higher groundwater reduction for Mount Pleasant.
Currently, SCDHEC allows MPW to withdraw 3.9 billion gallons a year or 10.58 million gallons of water a day. MPW submitted a renewed application to maintain their current permit limit in June 2018.
On April 2, DHEC issued a draft application cutting the utility’s permitted share of groundwater by 57%, down to 1.679 billion gallons per year. On April 16, MPW requested DHEC reduce it only 30%, as they thought that was more reasonable. Duffie said on Aug. 22, DHEC re-issued a draft permit to MPW with the 57% reduction limit still in place.
On Sept. 10, MPW submitted a modified application for their permit for only a 39% reduction in permit limit to DHEC which would equal 2.4 billion gallons a year, over the next five years.
“That will be able to provide with sufficiency, the water needs of the Town of Mount Pleasant and customers beyond the boundaries of the town of Mount Pleasant. We serve about 90,000 people in total so we have to be the ones to provide and ensure that water supply is there when people need it, everyday, 24/7,” Duffie said. “That’s a pretty awesome responsibility and for the department to cut us back 57% puts us in a very tenuous situation where we perhaps may not be able to meet our needs.”
Duffie gave a presentation of MPW groundwater use wince 2004 to the council. During the last 15 years, MPW has never used the full existing permitted groundwater use. But, Duffie shared that MPW won’t be able to meet their customers projected needs for water under the new draft permit limit.
Duffie said if cut, it would force MPW to buy water from Charleston County Water Services for over $5 per gallon, plus capital costs as well as a rate to keep up with demands. He explained they could buy water from Charleston, but MPW financial and water supply plans are designed to keep rates as low as they can be.
He explained the process assuming DHEC issues a final permit at 1.679 billion gallons per year or a 57% reduction and the appeal process they can file with Administrative Law Court.
Council voted unanimously to support MPW’s modified permit application to DHEC requesting a 39% reduction in their current permit of 2.4 billion gallons a year.
The 30.32 acres of land known as Patriots Annex came before the council for further discussion at the Sept. 10 meeting. The applicant, local developer Michael Bennett, asked to defer the final reading of the development agreement pertaining to the project until next month.
Council passed a final reading to rezone the property into the Cooper River Waterfront Gateway District. This is the first property zoned this designation in the town and the town’s Comprehensive Plan recommends this zoning on the Future Land Use Map.
The council also passed an ordinance to amend the Building Height Plan map to allow up to 80 feet in building height for the entire Patriots Annex tract. The ordinance could not be amended at the first reading, but can be amended at second reading.
Several council members suggested that amendments to the height plan and further discussion was necessary before final approval. The town’s planning staff explained the applicant is now requesting for council to consider a tiered height map for the parcel. Instead of an 80-foot height variance, the applicant proposed a height map of 80 feet, stepped down to 65 feet and then 50 feet in various subareas on the land.
The Planning Committee did not meet in September due to Hurricane Dorian, therefore the height remained at 80 feet in the ordinance. Councilmember Joe Bustos said there’s no recommendation from the planning committee yet for the tiered building height.
Councilmember Bob Brimmer said the tiered approach came from discussion in committee with the applicant. Jeff Ulma, the town’s planning director, said that committee had discussed a two level tiered approach of 80 and 50 feet in past meetings and recommended denial. Ulma explained the committee had not reviewed a three-tier model due to the storm.
Councilmember Gary Santos made a motion for the property to pass first reading and for the planning committee to look into the tiered approach before second reading.
The ordinance to amend the Building Height Map to allow up to 80 feet in building height for the 30.32 acres passed first reading 5-4 with Councilmembers Bustos, Jim Owens, G.M. Whitley and Mayor Will Haynie voting in denial.