MOUNT PLEASANT — The controversial design for the National Medal of Honor Museum near the aircraft carrier Yorktown was sent back to the drawing board Monday, with little hope the town would ever approve it without some big changes.
Town Council's Planning Committee unanimously voted to give the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation 60 days to make significant changes or start over.
The foundation spent $3.5 million on architect Moshe Safdie's modernistic concept that's far taller than anything the town has approved before.
Committee members said they hope the foundation will withdraw the plan for the $100 million project and submit a more modest one for consideration.
The Planning Commission voted 8-0 in January against the plan, which would allow the museum to be built up to 140 feet tall.
The tallest building the town has ever approved is 80 feet. The museum site is zoned for 50 feet. There are also concerns the project is too close to the water.
Joe Daniels, the foundation's new CEO, told the board he's committed to working with town staff and residents to come up with something of which the community can be proud. He raised the $450 million for the September 11 Memorial in New York City and said he's confident he can raise the money for a museum in Mount Pleasant.
No one during Monday’s meeting spoke in favor of the current design. Resident Pat Sullivan called it "an ostentatious style" that’s out of character with the Lowcountry.
"This is our town and not their town," she said of the planners. "If they wanted the support of our community, they should have included us, as well."
Critics say the foundation should have been checking with town staff, the council and area residents much earlier in the process.
Committee member Bob Brimmer said he was surprised the request for approval was even on the agenda, considering how little input the foundation has gotten from the town and the community.
"I’ve been looking at projects for the town for 10 years and the first conversation I had about this was two weeks ago," he said. "I think this is premature."
He suggested the committee defer the request and the foundation withdraw the design. He said if the foundation demonstrates progress working with the town, council could consider expediting the process of bringing a new plan back to the Planning Commission.
"I think we can all agree there were missteps in this project and this is our opportunity to go back and do it right," he said.
Chairman Joe Bustos asked Daniels to come up to the podium and confirm his comments in The Post and Courier on Sunday that he would work with the town on the design. Daniels smiled and pointed out this was his first day on the job, which prompted some chuckles from the board and the audience.
"This has to be an engaged partnership with the community," Daniels said. "We would like the chance to work much more openly, much more transparently, with council and the community."
Bustos suggested the committee defer a vote for 60 days to give the new CEO a chance to talk with town staff and residents and "get everything out on the table."
"I think your suggestion makes a lot of sense," Daniels said.
The vote for a 60-day deferral was 3-0, with committee member Tom O’Rourke also in agreement.