MOUNT PLEASANT — A local developer wants to build offices and hotels almost twice the height of what’s currently allowed near the Mount Pleasant Pier, worrying some residents that the move could set an unwanted precedent.
Michael Bennett, owner of Charleston-based Bennett Hospitality, is seeking permission to construct buildings up to 150 feet tall for a large mixed-use development that would include offices, restaurants, hotels, retail space and some residences. The current height limit is 80 feet.
One of the buildings planned south of the Ravenel Bridge would be a 118-foot-tall office building, Bennett said. Adding the design of the roof, that comes to 142 feet. Another office building he estimates would be around the same height.
“It can always be redesigned and lowered,” he said. “We think it’s really handsome the way it is.”
Bennett said that while the requested would allow 150-foot-structures throughout the property, he doesn’t need to build that high everywhere.
“We only need it in a couple of places,” he said.
The Mount Pleasant Planning Commission was split on its vote Wednesday to recommend amending the area’s existing zoning. Bennett’s request will now go to the respective Town Council committee.
Bob Brimmer, one of the commissioners who voted against the proposal, was concerned about the precedent building that high would set for the town.
“I just thought it was too much of a leap from 80 feet to 150,” he said after the vote. “I thought it would be out of character.”
Jimmy Bagwell, a former Town Council member and a current board member of the Save Shem Creek Corp., a nonprofit formed to push back on development, said the proposed buildings would block views of the bridge.
“We would like to see him work with the town to come up with a height that is more in keeping with the character of that area,” he said.
Public outcry over growth and density in Mount Pleasant has the town rethinking its guidelines for future projects. The issues also are playing a prominent role in the upcoming Town Council elections. Among the reoccurring sore spots is The Boulevard, an apartment complex on Coleman Boulevard, often criticized for its height and density.
“If you can almost double the heights of a building in one area, what is to prevent a property owner from coming and asking for a similar treatment in another area?” Bagwell said. “We’re concerned that this could set off a wave of requests to increase building heights all over town.”
Bagwell, a lifelong resident, couldn’t remember any similar requests.
Motley Rice, a big law firm headquartered near Bennett’s property, sent a letter to the planning commission stating its support for the project.
“In light of the bridge’s height and the way the land sits, I have no objection to the development being given height variances to deal with the bridge as proposed by Mike,” founding member Joe Rice said in the letter.
Mayor Linda Page said she wants the property to have a hotel with space for conferences.
“It hasn’t come before me and I’d have to talk about all the issues that we would be concerned about,” she said.
Bennett’s company bought the three parcels for $10 million in 2013, according to property records.
Currently, the area has approval for 450 hotel rooms, 330,000 square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and as many as 573 multifamily housing units. Bennett’s land only has 73 of those housing units, he said, which he expects to be condos.
A large apartment complex is going up on a separately owned parcel across the street.
Reach Allison Prang at (843) 937-5705 or follow her on Twitter @AllisonPrang.