Right big box call shows Mount Pleasant is open for business
BY BILLY SWAILS
Mount Pleasant Town Council recently passed an ordinance removing the requirement to have at least 50 acres of land in order to build any commercial structure with a footprint of greater than 70,000 square feet.
This vote was preceded by a unanimous vote in May 2011 by the Planning Commission and in July 2011 by Town Council to repeal the original ordinance. An oversight by the Town removed the ordinance from only one section of the Code, but failed to remove it from another, which was an administrative error.
The most recent vote on June 12 was an important decision, the right decision, and our citizens are the winners.
Here’s why. Mount Pleasant is the fourth largest municipality in South Carolina and growing. A population of this size demands and deserves a market environment where goods and services are convenient to acquire and competitively priced.
This free-market environment did not fully exist until Council removed this requirement, one that placed an artificial and arbitrary cap on the free market. It was a barrier to entry into the Mount Pleasant market and our citizens paid the price in increased costs and inconvenience.
Now, because of Council’s action, we can honestly say Mount Pleasant is open for business, not necessarily for big box stores, but potentially larger employers such as Blackbaud, BenefitFocus, or even Boeing. Barriers to entry and artificial caps have been removed and the marketplace can now operate efficiently.
Town Council now has the flexibility to look at sites that are meaningful in terms of size and location, sites that are closest to population centers and main traffic arteries.
This promotes infill development and prevents urban sprawl which will occur if major retailers are forced to Mount Pleasant’s northern limits in order to meet an arbitrary acreage requirement.Still worried about a “big box” on only a couple of acres?
Keep this in mind. Because of vegetative buffer, stormwater, and parking requirements, projects can only fit about 10,000 square feet of commercial space on one acre of land (43,560 square feet). So rumors about “big box” stores settling in on as little as three acres are simply not true.
Furthermore, the public process is still intact. Citizens can still voice their support for or opposition to a project.
The process is unchanged. A minimum of four public meetings are still required. Impacts regarding traffic and stormwater still must be mitigated.
And unlike before, all projects will now receive due process and will stand to be judged on their own merits.
Commercial developments provide jobs for our residents as well as places to shop. They increase the tax base, they remove the burden of producing revenue for essential town services from resting solely on our homeowners. These are the reasons all municipalities desire and seek economic development.
I’d like to publicly thank Town Council members Ken Glasson, John Burn, Chris O’Neal, and Dr. Craig Rhyne for doing the right thing for the future of Mount Pleasant.
Billy Swails is mayor of Mount Pleasant.