MOUNT PLEASANT - From newcomers to lifelong residents, dozens turned out Thursday to blast rapid growth and urbanization in this once-small fishing town.
"(Officials) are moving too quickly," said resident Sandra Parkhurst. "The place looks like a concrete jungle. That's not why we moved here."
She was among those attending a public drop-in session held to gain input from residents as town officials update its comprehensive plan. On sticky notes and in comments, residents said town officials are allowing development too rapidly and endangering gems such as Shem Creek and the Old Village.
Many said that recent projects such as The Boulevard and Earl's Court, along with a planned parking garage and office building near Shem Creek, are changing the town from a quaint bedroom community into a future Atlanta or Charlotte.
Parkhurst moved to town four years ago and said she's already seen a huge change. She came to enjoy bicycling and walking in its natural areas but sees them threatened by large new buildings and increased traffic.
Residents appeared to agree that the town should curb development and better consider what the community will look like in the future.
The comprehensive plan is a state-required document that helps officials manage such issues as land use, housing, transportation, economics, population and community facilities. It provides a framework for the town's future and guides zoning and planning.
The current plan adopted in 2009, and now being updated, focuses on creating urban coordinators with more dense development and mixed housing options, including rentals and housing more suitable to senior citizens. Namely, more dense residential housing has been targeted along Coleman, Johnnie Dodds and Ben Sawyer boulevards.
Yet, in a town wedged in by water and marsh, residents wondered where more traffic will go.
Many also said they want developers to pay more toward new roads and schools. Today, that falls too heavily onto residents' shoulders, they said.
"I've got to pay for the roads they'll use," longtime Old Village resident Louisa Montgomery said, adding she opposes the parking garage near Shem Creek.
Nearly all echoed the notion that the town is moving to quickly to urbanize too much.
"They are feeling vulnerable," said Jimmy Bagwell, former shrimper and former councilman. "They are feeling besieged."
The meeting, at the Mount Pleasant Waterworks building, was one of two held Thursday. The other was at Park West.
The town's planning commission has been updating the comprehensive plan. Its recommendations will likely go to Town Council in October.
Residents can see the plan and offer input at www.engagetompsc.com/topics/all.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.
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