rendering pier extension

A rendering of the planned extension of the pier at Mount Pleasant's Memorial Waterfront Park.

Monopole in Old Village

Residents in the Old Village neighborhood may soon see a 170-foot monopole for cell phone service instead of the existing 140-foot water tank on Simmons Street.

Currently, Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) leases the water tank as an antenna for Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T for town residents. 

Mount Pleasant Town Council and the town's planning staff have been investigating the appropriate zoning and decision for the property since January

On June 11, town council passed the first reading of an ordinance to rezone the property so a monopole could be placed on MPW's parcel of land in town.

The monopole would conceal telecommunication antennas inside and stand 30 feet taller than the existing water tower. The water tower, which was built in 1934 and hasn't held water since 1991, is facing repairs close to $1 million to stay in place, according to MPW.

Some residents in the Old Village are pleading with the council and MPW to leave the tower in its place and make necessary restorations to keep the cell phone antennas in place on the tower. 

Councilmembers Kevin Cunnane, G.M. Whitley and Gary Santos voted against rezoning the property. The ordinance to rezone the land to accommodate the monopole will return to council for a final reading in July.

Pier extension project continues

At the June 11 meeting, council had a lengthy discussion about the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park pier extension project. Councilmember Tom O'Rourke, chair of the Finance Committee, explained they had a conversation in committee about whether the town should stop funding the pier extension or keep things moving. 

The town has spent five years of planning for the project. Contractors from Johnson, Laschober & Associates, P.C. and Applied Technology and Management attended the meeting to review the design elements of the pier extension with council. The elements include a 310-foot extension of the existing fishing pier, eight 40 foot long transient day dockage slips and 200 linear feet of flexible use side-tie dockage. The town would also have two slips dedicated to the town's fire rescue and police boats.

The extension design also includes plans for a wave protection fence constructed of long-lasting pre-cast concrete panels in the harbor. The ideal plan for the extension would be for transient boaters to access the parks amenities, including restroom facilities.

The decision the council had to make was whether they would take away nearly $5 million in funding from the extension project and decline $1.2 million in federal funds or tax increment financing (TIF) funds.

The town was awarded the $1.2 million in the spring of 2016 following a nationally competitive evaluation for a Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG). The BIG program is administered on a state level by SCDNR from USFWS for funding for transient boating infrastructure.

The town has the permits in hand to move forward with the extension from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cunnane asked if the town decided to not move forward with building the extension, if it would hurt the chances of them getting similar grants in the future. The contractor representatives explained that the town would probably not be looked favorably upon in the future.

Stripping the pier project of funds would allow the town to pay for the next phase of the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park improvements instead, which aren't currently funded. These phases include improving an unpaved parking area and building a restaurant in the park that would be leased to a private operator.

"The part about giving our citizens access to the water, that's one of the biggest complaints I hear from folks. As you know, we've grown a lot and a lot of people have boats and we don't have many landings," Santos said. "I think it'd be benefiting our boating community. I've heard from a lot of them and they think it's a great idea."

Santos said another benefit would be that their fire and police boats would have instant access to the water in the case of an emergency instead of having to put a boat in to get somewhere.

"As we know, sometimes seconds and minutes can cost a life," he said. "It just seems like it's beneficial. This is an approved project by council. We have the funding and if we don't use it, it'll go away. I just think it's a time to move forward with this project."

"If we say no to this today, I don't think we'll ever see this again," O'Rourke said. 

O'Rourke said the development going on in the area around the pier will make that area look so different in 20-30 years from now. He thinks it won't be difficult in the future to have water taxis or something there.

"As we look down the road, far into the future, I think that's what makes this town so unique. We're almost an island with three sides with water and to be able to have a trail head, an access point for our citizens to be able to have a nice evening boat ride or whatever and just go there; I think that's an amenity this town would really be able to enjoy," he said.

O'Rourke explained this project won't make the town any money and that marinas are expensive. But, he thinks this would present opportunities for Mount Pleasant to put itself on the map with these water features. 

Mayor Will Haynie told council that he questioned the pier extension project. He raised issues about the boat slips, the restaurant building and disagreed with the fact that they should be using TIF funds for this project.

After further discussion of TIF funds and priorities for the park, council voted on a motion to remove funding from Phase 2 of the Waterfront Park for the pier extension. Landing, Haynie, Bustos and Whitley voted to remove funding, falling one vote short. The project is still approved and will continue.