Mount Pleasant puts brakes on boulevard building ban

The first four homes in Earl's Court are being framed just off Whilden Street. Ultimately, the development could include 22 more homes, but some Old Village residents want to see it scaled back. Robert Behre/Staff Buy this photo

A proposed temporary moratorium on building permits for Coleman Boulevard development failed to gain traction Tuesday night at a Town Council meeting.

Councilman Gary Santos made a motion to approve such a measure but no one on Council seconded it.

Councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall then made a motion for the Council Planning Committee that she chairs to review issues raised by residents regarding the boulevard development. That motion passed with Santos voting no.

About a dozen residents of neighborhoods such as the Old Village spoke to Council to advocate for pausing any new boulevard development.

At issue is the effect of projects such as the recently completed four-story apartment and retail development known as The Boulevard, a $40 million effort that includes 325 apartments and 15,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space on the ground floor.

Worries were expressed about Earl's Court, a development under construction at the front door of the Old Village that will include 26 single-family homes, all with different designs between 1,000 and 1,700 square feet, as well as shops.

"We are very concerned about the congestion this is going to cause," said Ann Edwards, an Old Village resident and wife of former Gov. James Edwards.

The motion that Council approved Tuesday night directs the Planning Committee to review how Coleman revitalization and the rezoning that made it possible affects adjacent neighborhoods. Parking, building setbacks, density, streets and minimum lot size are some of the areas that will be studied. The committee is to report its findings back to Council within 60 days.

The meeting drew speakers who said they worried that the current building boom on Coleman will lead to problems that will be felt for generations to come.

Old Village resident Jimmy Bagwell said the development was not in keeping with what residents want and, if allowed to continue, would ruin the neighborhood.

Cooper Estates resident Christine von Kolnitz said she had major concerns about plans for a parking garage to serve visitors of the town's Shem Creek Park. She said it would increase a problem with drunk drivers in her neighborhood.

Developer Tex Smalls noted that his retail development at the north end of town on U.S. 17 has resulted in billions of dollars in sales and lower taxes for residents.

"Moratoriums don't work and I'm against it," Smalls said.

Phillip Ford, executive director of the Charleston Trident Homebuilders Association, said Earl's Court would increase the value of Old Village homes.

Coleman revitalization aims to reshape the street into a more walkable, bikeable area, with on-street parking, outdoor dining and other urban details. The town approved the plan and its Coleman Boulevard Overlay District in 2008.

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