MOUNT PLEASANT - The prospect of a property tax increase here doesn't seem to bother residents nearly as much as town plans to subsidize a private Shem Creek parking garage that about 60 residents said would be too tall for the area.

In other action

Also Tuesday, Mount Pleasant Town Council gave approval to part of a compromise that will alter the town's special zoning along Coleman Boulevard.

That zoning, approved several years ago, encouraged more urban, dense development along one of its oldest and busiest streets, but nearby residents have recently objected to aspects of new residential projects that the zoning has allowed.

Town Council voted Tuesday to require multi-family parking to have 1.5 and 2 parking spaces per unit and to limit the number of homes that can be served on a one-way street. Those were recommended by both residents who objected to recent developers and designers involved in the original zoning. Town Council could consider more amendments next month.

Robert Behre

Only one spoke out against the planned tax increase Tuesday, and council members voted 6-3 to approve it.

More than a dozen residents spoke out against a garage envisioned at Coleman Boulevard and Mill Street, a private garage that would be built as part of a new office building. About four times as many stood to show they also objected, and about 1,150 signed an online petition against it.

Those who spoke not only feared the building would be too tall and would mar the character of the creek, but they also were upset the town is helping to make it happen.

Last year, Town Council agreed to use about $2.7 million of hotel taxes over the next 15 years to subsidize the garage so that it would be available for public parking on nights and weekends, when the creek's bars and restaurants see their peak business.

"It seems like every time the population turns around, we're seeing a problem," resident Jimmy Bagwell said. "I feel like Coleman Boulevard, Shem Creek are under attack."

Councilman Gary Santos moved Tuesday to rescind the town's subsidy of the garage, but the motion failed for lack of a second.

Developer Tex Small, who plans to build the garage as part of a new office building, said residents have been stirred up by misinformation, including a bogus image of what the garage would look like. He offered to sit down with those concerns about the project.

Mayor Linda Page stepped in when Santos tried to press Small to hold off on construction until there could be a further meeting. "I'm not going to sit here in council chambers and exchange words between council and developers," she said.

By the time council voted on the tax increase - which would add $36 to the annual bill on a $300,000 home - the audience had shriveled to a fraction of its original size.

The town's current budget is $86.9 million, and it's unclear how large the next one will be.

But the town has identified $5.8 million in unfunded road and drainage work that it needs to address in the coming year. And the approved increases won't raise that sum. The town expects to receive about $1.3 million more from the property tax increase; $1 million more from a $30-per-home increase in stormwater fees; and $750,000 more from new business license rates. The license and stormwater fees were approved last month.

The higher planning and zoning fees would bring in about $35,000 and would help cover the cost of a new employee needed to help the town keep up with the rise in applications.

Only Irvin Evans, who is involved in Republican politics, spoke up about the property tax increase, though he said he was even more displeased with the town's plans to double its planning fees.

The final property tax increase vote was the same as last month: Mayor Linda Page and council members Elton Carrier, Paul Gawyrch, Chris Nickels, Chris O'Neal, Thomasena Stokes-Marshall voted yes; Mark Smith, Ken Glasson and Gary Santos voted no.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.