The Town of Mount Pleasant's (TOMP) Planning Commission reviewed rezoning the property of Old Village's water storage tank at their meeting on Jan. 23. The request presented was to rezone the property from Public Institutional-2 District to Light Industrial District.
This was immediately following a comment period open to Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) customers Jan. 11-22 regarding the 84-year-old tank. The tank, which has not held any water since 1991 has been used for cell phone service for the past 24 years. Currently it serves as an antenna for three cell phone providers, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T. MPW receives revenue from their leases with the cell phone carriers on their elevated tank, which helped maintain lower rates over the years. MPW is currently looking at options to retain cell service in the area as they look to lessen the burden of maintenance and liability of the tank. To maintain revenue, MPW will need to spend $1 million to maintain the water tank or take it down and put a cell tower which would cost nearly half a million dollars.
During the discussion on this agenda item, MPW General Manager Clay Duffie explained the options for the tank. MPW could repair the tank and maintain the same look it has at 145 feet tall. This option would mean that they would need to schedule regular repairs on the tank to ensure stable conditions. Or MPW could consider installing a concealed monopole for the cell phone service. The cell tower would be 170 feet tall, constructed of steel and composite material at the higher portion that holds the antennas. Duffie said that they have looked at the pros and cons of taking down the tank and during the comment period, they received lots of feedback from the community.
"We have a public issue on our hands. We wanted to be sure that we made a conservative effort to provide the community with opportunities to provide our commission with feedback," Duffie said. He shared that they have held public meetings, put signs on their property, ran ads in the Moultrie News, emailed all customers (nearly 30,000 emails) and did as much as they could to draw attention to the matter. Duffie shared they've received 90 written comments back through email; 59 supported the monopole, 23 supported leaving the water tank as a historical landmark and eight people said remove the tank.
Walter Brown III, a resident in the Old Village asked the Planning Commission to deny the rezoning request. Brown showed them a flyer he made in October 1966 called Save the Tank, which he stands behind today. In addition to his desire to save the water tank from being taken down, he thinks that the 170 foot monopole belongs somewhere with enough radius for a fall zone so it doesn't encroach on anyone else's property, such as on a football field.
Jonathan Yates, the attorney for the cellphone carriers, explained the extra height is due to the stealth canisters within the pole. Each carrier would need two canisters each, for a total of six in the top portion of the pole. MPW told the Commission they will hire a reputable company to build the tower if this is the option they go with.
The proposed project schedule has this going to the TOMP Planning Committee Feb. 4, being brought before Town Council February through March and expected design and construction would take place from March through October 2019.
The Planning Commission unanimously passed the rezoning request.
As a part of their regular meeting on Jan. 23, the Planning Commission held a Town Hall public input opportunity regarding the Comprehensive Plan draft.
The Town's Planning & Development department director, Jeffery G. Ulma, AICP explained the Comprehensive Plan is organized into themes and topics. Ulma said the plan doesn't force change for a lot of the town, the fabric and pattern of the plan already exists.
The TOMP principal planner Liz Boyles ran through a Powerpoint presentation of the Comprehensive Plan draft which is online for public review before this is brought forward to town council.
According to the presentation, the Comprehensive Plan is intended to be a guiding document that establishes a vision and goals for the town to work toward over a period of 10-20 years. It also makes recommendations for specific actions to take. It is implemented through ordinance changes, Capital Improvement Programming and other municipal functions.
The draft has been put together over a period of 16 months, based upon input of 39 appointed Plan Forum members, with technical assistance and support by Town consultants and staff.
The presentation's topics include: community vision, goals, quality of the environment and life, safe and efficient mobility, community issues, network plans, district plans, action and implementation, an appendix and more.
Community issues in the draft include: the Urban Corridor Overlay District (Boulevards Overlay district), housing diversity and affordability, settlement communities, the cultural core, the Mount Pleasant Way bicycle and pedestrian network, financial health and resilience and open space network.
Many individuals lined up to share their input and feedback on the draft with the Planning Commission. Several of the forum members asked that the draft move forward to Council for approval with no changes. Other members of the community asked for specific implementation in the plan for topics, such as: affordable housing, increasing open space, transportation and capital improvements, retain building height limitation, development, protecting land and more.
The draft will be reviewed, with all public input received to date, at Planning Commission workshops on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. A tentative third session is scheduled for Feb. 13, at the discretion of the Planning Commission. The draft will be on the agenda for the next Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 20. Once they make a recommendation on the plan, they will schedule a public hearing with Town Council.
You can review the latest draft of the comprehensive presentation, appendices and a land use map online at tompsc.com/1099/12019-Planning-Commission-Workshops. Send all input or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.