"No consistent vision of what you want Mt. Pleasant to be."
That was one of the critiques — and overarching themes — offered at a Thursday panel discussion billed as an “Assessment of the Mt. Pleasant Growth Plan.” The event, sponsored by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and facilitated by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), drew a capacity crowd to Mt. Pleasant, SC Waterfront Park’s Cooper River Room.
ULI describes itself as a group advocating for “the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.” The nonprofit group’s South Carolina chapter was formed in 2005 and claims more than 500 members throughout the state.
The panel was drawn from ULI’s statewide membership and included experts in transportation and land use, economic development, urban planning, alternative financing and affordable housing. Their recommendations were based on two days of meeting with more than fifty local community members and representatives of local advocacy, citizens and business groups.
In addition to the need for a clear vision, the panel’s recommendations also included the need for elected officials and policymakers to provide more guidance and predictability for local developers. and the creation of high-density corridors to which the city drives development through the use of incentives.
The panel also warned against the use of creating higher impact fees discourage growth and pay for public infrastructure, noting that Mt. Pleasant already has the highest impact fees in the region. Higher fees, they warned, may lower land value and chase development to areas where it is less appropriate.
Bluffton, SC Mayor Lisa Sulka, a member of the ULI panel, also reminded the audience about the importance of economic development.
"Don't forget economic development,” said Sulka. "You have a lot of households and you don't want them empty. You need jobs and you want to keep them here.”