Mount Pleasant has filled a hole on its town-limit maps, but it had to dig into some of its strict building standards to get it done.
Town Council recently approved a measure on a 6-3 vote to annex the Peach Orchard Plaza site, a two-acre tract on West Coleman Boulevard at Broadway Street where a developer last year proposed building a multistory mini-storage facility.
The property was classified as a "doughnut hole," or land surrounded by town limits but not in the municipality. It was under Charleston County's jurisdiction, but the town wanted control over what was developed on the property.
The site, made up of four small parcels, is principally the site of the plaza, a one-story collection of shops built in 1971 at 423 W. Coleman.
On similar votes, Town Council also changed the height limit with a tiered-structure approach and altered the land use to allow for a mix of options.
A structure up to 45 feet can be built along the street with the building rising to 55 feet farther back. For perspective, the building that houses the Kickin' Chicken restaurant nearby is about 50 feet tall.
Also, any future structure on the site must set aside 60 percent at the street level for commercial use such as retail or restaurants.
Most council members welcomed the parcel into the city and made rule changes to make the deal happen.
Those in favor cited about $300,000 a year in extra property taxes for Mount Pleasant from new development while also noting that the town would have control over the site. Opponents said they didn't like going back on previously approved building-height limits on Coleman.
Mayor Will Haynie pointed out the developer could have built above the town's height limits had the property stayed under the county's jurisdiction.
"They absolutely could have pulled the permit as it was and built storage units without sewer," Haynie said.
He said allowing a storage facility to be built on Coleman Boulevard without requiring retail and restaurants along the ground floor would have resulted in the same kind of facility built on a doughnut hole a few years ago on St. Andrews Boulevard in West Ashley.
"That would have been a death knell for that portion of Coleman Boulevard," Haynie said. "We have to have retail on Coleman Boulevard with activity zones, those businesses with umbrellas and sidewalk cafes, like that down the street at Kickin' Chicken, to give vibrance and life to Coleman Boulevard."
Had the annexation effort failed, he said, "We would have had a dead zone, and I just could not live with that."
Storage units, if that's what the developer decides to build, can still go on the site above the ground-floor businesses, but the upper floors facing the street cannot look like a conventional storage facility.
"It has to go through our Design Review Board, so we now control what it will look like," Haynie said.
A representative of the property owners said they were satisfied with the outcome.
"We felt like it was a win-win — for us and the town," said Mikell Harper of Coleman Holdings, a group of partners invested in the project. Harper works for Gramling Brothers Real Estate and Development in Charleston, whose owner, Ben Gramling, also is a partner in the project.
A year ago, the property owners submitted plans to Charleston County, which at the time had jurisdiction over the land, to develop a nearly 36,000-square-foot mini-storage facility, possibly up to three stories tall.
The town's land use for the tract allows storage development, and Harper said that's still one of the possibilities for the site.
"There are multiple uses that would work," he said. "We want to do something that looks good."
Nothing has been decided, because the owners wanted to know what the outcome would be with the town.
"We can't start the process until you know if you are in or out," Harper said. "We are just now sitting down and going through our options."
The owners hope to have a plan nailed down by the end of the year, with construction starting sometime next year.
"We would like to give the existing tenants in Peach Orchard Plaza a home if possible," he said.