Mount Pleasant big box developer meets with Gregg Tract neighbors
MOUNT PLEASANT — Lush, green yards slope to a pastoral view of water and woods behind houses on Babington Way in Wando Lakes.
“We have bald eagles back here,” said resident Amy Hardee. “This is one of the last green spaces that we have in this part of Mount Pleasant. It’s a shame to develop it in such a vast way,” she said.
The developer, Ben Henrich, came to the Babington Way home of Damon and Jamie Meek recently to discuss his plans for a nearby shopping center. Jamie Meek said it would be only 273 feet from her house to a discount shopping club that would be part of a “big box” store center Henrich envisions on 40 acres.
“I think he (Henrich) has done a lot of work. It’s a great plan. I’m just not sure it’s a great spot,” she said.
Henrich told the residents that the location, known as the Gregg Tract, is one of the most desirable places in the region for developers. It is across from Towne Centre, the shopping heart of Mount Pleasant.
In response to resident concerns, Henrich said three “big box” stores have been pulled back from the property line as far as possible and extra buffering has been added in the form of mature trees and an 8-foot-tall fence. Lighting will be “straight down” at a 90-degree angle and trucks will not unload merchandise late at night, he said.
“We’ve really tried to consider what you are seeing out your back window. It’s important to us to do the best that we can with buffering,” he said.
Henrich, an I’On Village resident, pointed to City Center in White Plains, N.Y., as an example of the sort of work he has done with his father-in-law, Connecticut-based developer Lou Ceruzzi.
“That is a project that we look to that we are very proud of,” he said.
About 10 residents who met with Henrich expressed worries about noise, traffic and stormwater drainage problems they feared would come from his development. A home improvement store, sporting goods outlet and discount club are envisioned on the property.
“I moved here to raise a family. That is what I think is going to suffer if this goes through,” said Dan Bell, a Wando Lakes resident.
Henrich described steps he would take to improve drainage in Snee Farm as part of his development. He discussed measures that could improve traffic flow and emphasized that he would ensure that delivery trucks are not at the site at all hours of the night.
After withdrawing his town application for the development because of public opposition, Henrich has been reaching out to surrounding neighborhoods such as Snee Farm, Wando Lakes, Wando East, The Reserve and Montclair.
“Some of you just aren’t going to like what I do and I accept that,” he said. Henrich said his goal is to keep residents well-informed of his plans so there are no surprises down the road. He apologized that some residents found out about the project in the newspaper.
The Gregg Tract property is zoned residential, which means Henrich would have to obtain town approval for commercial zoning. If that is not forthcoming, Henrich said his “Plan B” is multi-family housing on the site.
Some residents expressed concern because their research showed that “big box” stores were not flourishing as they had in the past. They worried about an empty shopping center next door.
“That’s my biggest nightmare,” Henrich said. For that reason, he said he would not enter a lease with a “big box” retailer unless they are strong and successful. Henrich would not reveal the potential tenants other than to describe them as a discount club, a sporting goods outlet and a home improvement store.
Wal-mart and Kmart are already in town. Lowe’s is located in Towne Centre across U.S. 17 from the Gregg Tract.
“What you see across the street is what you can expect on this side of the street,” he said.