Property owners not consulted over height plan, says councilman

Property owners in a fast growing area of Mount Pleasant were not properly consulted before a town council decision to limit the height of new buildings, the lone dissenting voice said.

Mount Pleasant Council voted in June to cut the allowed height of new residential and commercial buildings along Coleman and Ben Sawyer boulevards. The vote was taken after concerns were raised over the ability of the town to cope with rapid population growth.

New buildings, with a former 55-foot limit, will not be able to rise above 45 feet, and no more than three stories.

The limit at two shopping centers, Moultrie Plaza and Sea Island Shopping Center, will be 55 feet, from the previous 75 feet.

But the lone holdout in the 8-1 vote for the new regulations was Councilman Mark Smith, who argued that property owners were not properly canvassed for their views.

Smith said he could not support the blanket motion “to lower the heights on private property when it was not part of an organized, professionally prepared land use plan.”

He also said property owners were not brought into the conversation.

"My position on this issue remains the same as it was on the first reading because none of the impacted property owners (over 250) have come forward in support of the lowering of the build-able heights of their properties,” Smith told Palmetto Business Daily. “And there has been no direct communication with every one of them by the town other than the required public hearing during the planning commission meeting and a planning committee meeting and the first reading at town council meeting a few months ago.”

He said many stakeholders had no idea their properties were discussed and that actions taken would adversely impact the current and future values of the uses of their property.

“I don't have any unrealistic expectations that would lead me to believe that every citizen (and town property owner) is reading town public meeting agendas on a monthly basis," Smith said. “I would want to hear directly from impacted property owners that they actually support this motion before I could bring myself to voting in favor of it."

Residents who attended the June meeting said the population growth of the town has had a major impact, leading to overcrowded schools and heavy traffic.

The new rules are being finalized before moving to the Planning Commission, then a town council committee for review before a final vote by the full council.

But Smith said he believes the decision was not strategic or taken after careful study. He claimed his colleagues on the council randomly tossed out numbers “without knowledge, experience or expertise to justify or lend credibility to their right or ability to make such decisions."

Further, at the council meeting in June, he was disheartened by “witnessing special interest groups perched in the front rows cheering these motions and providing their ‘unanimous support.’ ”

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