Mt. P. to consider residential development moratorium

Mount Pleasant’s population increased more than any other city east of the Mississippi River, with at least 50,000 residents, in 2015 according to the Census Bureau. The town is considering new restrictions on residential construction, but approved projects such as Carolina Park, shown here, would go forward.

The fastest-growing city east of the Mississippi River will consider a temporary ban on new residential construction when Town Council meets Tuesday night.

The potential moratorium proposed by Councilman Joe Bustos would follow a 180-day moratorium on new apartment development applications that the council approved in April. The goal, said Bustos, is to slow development while the town completes work on a review of development impact fees and possible affordable housing initiatives.

“Right now, everywhere you turn there’s building, and traffic is getting worse and worse,” he said. “The only thing we can control is the rate at which permits go out the door.”

Mount Pleasant has about 80,000 residents, and gained more than 10,000 in just the past five years. The population has roughly doubled in 20 years, straining roads and schools.

Mount Pleasant has struggled with growth issues before, passing a six-month moratorium on large developments in 2008 that was followed by a building permit allocation program in 2009, aimed at limiting the town’s rate of growth. The permit restrictions ended during the recession.

Council meets at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Ann Edwards Lane.

Real estate and business groups will oppose limits on permits.

“If the town curbs the allowed number of residential units, it will further limit housing inventory, could artificially inflate prices and have a long-term deleterious effect on area real estate,” said Patrick Arnold, government affairs director for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. “First-time home buyers, many of whom were raised in Mount Pleasant, will further be unable to afford homes here and be forced elsewhere.”

It’s not clear a majority of council will go along with new permit restrictions. Bustos has said he didn’t expect the moratorium on apartment developments to pass, but it squeaked through on a 4-3 vote.

Bob Brimmer, often the swing vote on development-related issues, supported the apartment moratorium in April but declined to comment Monday on Bustos’ proposal.

Councilmen Elton Carrier and Paul Gawrych said they would not support a town-wide permit allocation program, and Mark Smith said he had many questions and concerns.

“I am not in favor of a permit allocation plan,” Carrier said. “Let demand and supply and the economy dictate the speed or slowness of our growth.”

He said the economic cycle appears to be peaking, and development will slow along with the economy, as it has previously.

During the recession, building permits issued by the town plunged from 1,261 in 2005 to 167 in 2009. Last year the town issued 1,174.

Despite the name, a moratorium would not halt residential construction. Permitted projects would continue to go forward, including the town’s largest current development, Carolina Park, where about 500 of 2,000 permitted homes have been built.

Councilman Will Haynie said it would be irresponsible to not restrict development, at least until the town can widen S.C. Highway 41 — an unfunded $129 million project — and increase development impact fees.

“Everywhere I go, people stop me and tell me there is too much development happening in Mount Pleasant,” Haynie said. “Not one person has told me there is not enough.”

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.