Former bar property

Many residents in the East Cooper will recall Richard's Bar, a longtime bar in Mount Pleasant that closed its doors last fall. The 0.63 tract of land the former bar sat on at 2237 Highway 17 North may be annexed into the Town of Mount Pleasant from Charleston County. The annexation passed first reading by Mount Pleasant's Town Council during their meeting on April 9. 

Town Administrator Eric DeMoura said the town doesn't know of any plans for the property and won't until an application for development is submitted to their planning department for review. 

Moratorium

A moratorium, a temporary ban, on multi-family structures was voted into place by the Mount Pleasant Town Council on April 9. The two year moratorium bans the processing of applications for multi-family structures to permit new construction or grant a new vested right.

Councilmember Jim Owens offered an amendment to the ordinance to include affordable housing as an exemption from the moratorium. G.M. Whitley seconded the amendment. Age-restricted "senior housing" structures are also exempt from the regulation. Other projects that are vested or in a legal agreement with the town may also proceed with a moratorium in place. More information about the moratorium and projects exempt are explained in further detail here.

Councilmember Kathy Landing explained that last month when this came up she questioned if there was any data that the town has enough apartments that they don't need any more.

"The average rate right now is around 13.8% vacancy. That includes things like the Haven at Indigo Square, Legacy Mount Pleasant and others that really are quite new, even the Midtown, " Landing said. "We have actually below that. Virtually everything is at least 90% occupied."

Landing said that the balance between single-family and multi-families is available in all communities and that the Town of Mount Pleasant falls exactly at the 27% average for multi-family structures. 

"The reason I'm bringing this up is because do we really have a situation where we should be stopping more apartments. Or even a better question is, is this really accomplishing anything at all," Landing questioned.

Landing said the Town already has a building permit allocation program in place for the next five years limiting the number of apartments per year. 

She continued, saying that she is not criticizing her fellow council members and understands why they're doing it, but she feels as though a moratorium at this time is for show more than anything else. Landing also referred to a town ordinance from 1999 that states the council must prove a real risk to the community in order to put a moratorium in place.

Councilmember Joe Bustos responded to Landing saying he'd rather have the moratorium in place. 

"My fear is that if it weren't for this, there would be more high end apartments. The only approved exemption is affordable (and senior) apartments. That's a method," Bustos said.

Council voted unanimously to amend affordable housing from the moratorium. The ordinance to provide a moratorium on certain family multi-structures in the town passed 7-1, with Landing as the lone vote in dissent. 

Planning report

Bustos said that there was a discussion of the second draft of the Short Term Rental regulations at the Planning Committee meeting on April 1.

"There is an ordinance being prepared, which will go to the Planning Commission, and then come back to council," Bustos said. 

"We will schedule the public hearing with the Planning Commission at their May meeting (May 15). Afterwards we’ll be at the June meeting of the Planning Committee (June 3), with first reading of the ordinance by Council the following week (June 11).  Final reading could then occur in July," shared Jeff Ulma, director of the Town of Mount Pleasant’s Planning and Development Department.

Bustos said the Planning Committee will continue discussions next month about hotels and self-storage facilities. He said they also have continuing discussion about heights along the Boulevard Overlay Districts of the Johnnie Dodds and Chuck Dawey areas. 

Meeting minutes

Haynie explained that the town's staff goes to great measures to type verbatim minutes of all public meetings. He said that this is not required by Roberts Rules or Order, which they follow by ordinance in the Town of Mount Pleasant, and by the State of South Carolina.

"What the minutes are supposed to say is who was present, what the final version of the motion was, who we heard from but not every word that every person said or every question that everybody asked, what the vote was," Haynie said. 

He added the town has video and audio recordings of their meetings if there's ever any dispute. Haynie explained the clerk of council has basically lost her assistant to nothing but typing minutes of their meetings and he would like to free up the staff's time for other purposes. 

Cunnane explained he thinks this will reduce the public's involvement in town government so he's against this.

"I don't understand why the public should have less visibility of what's going on," Cunnane said during the conversation. "That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. So I think this need a little more work before we start reducing what the public sees after our meetings."

DeMoura said anecdotally, the amount of people that viewed the meeting minutes online for a town of their size was very few. DeMoura said most of the visits were actually from staff to look for direction more than the general public.

Councilmember Bob Brimmer said that the Town of Mount Pleasant goes well above the law in terms of transparency by the various ways they share meeting information with the public. 

Councilmember Tom O'Rourke referenced that it is sometimes beneficial to have planning committee background in minutes than just the action. O'Rourke recommended the town consider a set up less than they're doing now but maybe not scale all the way back down to the motion and who voted. O'Rourke said he thinks the only way they'll get to where they want to be is through trial and error. 

The council voted 7-1 to follow Roberts Rules of Order and State Law as to the transcription of meeting minutes, Cunnane was the lone vote in dissent. 

DeMoura said that the minute adjustments will start to take place in the next cycle of committee and council meetings.

Meeting structure

Town residents will soon notice changes to the monthly council meetings held the second Tuesday of each month. The town passed an ordinance to amend their public meeting procedures moving forward at their April 9 meeting in hopes to shorten their lengthy meetings.

The changes to their meeting structure include moving all public comments to the beginning of the meeting instead of with each item as it appears on the agenda, adding a consent agenda section, removing the Administrator's report, changing committee reports to only committee action items, ordinances read by number rather than title and several others. The full coverage of the agenda restructuring can be found here

Keeping the start time of the meetings at 6 p.m. was the only amendment the council made to the ordinance before it passed unanimously. The council decided they wouldn't move the time forward so residents have time to make it across town after work in time for their meetings.

Their April meeting lasted close to 4.5 hours. As the council slowly rolls these adjustments into their meetings, the town anticipates shorter meetings in the months to come.

Mathis Ferry

Town Council passed the first reading of an ordinance authorizing and approving a Grant of Easement to South Carolina Electric & Gas Company along Mathis Ferry Road for underground power lines. The reason behind this ordinance is to keep the visual appeal of the scenic highway without cutting down the trees along Mathis Ferry. Second reading on this decision will come before the council in May.

Budget

The Town of Mount Pleasant held a public hearing at their April 9 meeting to receive comment on the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Budget (July 1, 2019 - July 30, 2020). The total proposed budget is $137,861,409 but is tentative to change with pending funds and projects over the next few months. An ordinance to adopt and appropriate a budget for the town passed first reading. 

Interested citizens may view the proposed budget at Town Hall, Office of Administrative Services, 100 Ann Edwards Lane, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. an 4:30 p.m. The proposed budget passed first reading unanimously by the council and will return to full council for a second reading in May.