Peach Orchard Plaza

A self-storage facility is being proposed on the site of Peach Orchard Plaza on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Mount Pleasant officials say they don’t want a self-storage business on Coleman Boulevard.

They are telling the truth.

But then, they really don’t want anything new built on Coleman Boulevard.

Because no matter what it is, they know the town’s most vocal residents will grouse, protest and generally make their lives miserable. Then possibly vote them out of office.

That’s just the way it is in Mount Pleasant these days.

Town policy is now dominated by a disdain for development. Moratoriums and impact fees have overtaken plans to revitalize Coleman, and that makes it all but impossible for new local business to come in.

Of course, that’s the idea. Make no mistake, this attitude is the underlying reason behind the hand-wringing over the Medal of Honor Museum.

The problem here is that Mount Pleasant has grown exponentially in the past decade, and longtime residents don’t like all the traffic. Well, get in line behind West Ashley, Summerville and downtown Charleston.

But old Mount Pleasant’s anti-development crowd needs to understand they have created a political climate that directly leads to three-story self-storage buildings on their equivalent of Main Street.

So if they don’t like it, they only have themselves to blame.

The quandary

Gramling Brothers Real Estate & Development is not the bad guy here.

Inspired by Mount Pleasant’s Coleman revitalization plans, the local company has been buying property around Broadway Street for years with the idea for a mixed-use, multifamily development.

You know, the sort of place where mere mortals could live within walking distance of Shem Creek. It’s a good idea, and sorely needed in a town where the average worker can no longer afford to live.

Mikell Harper, a vice president with Gramling, says the company took its plans to the town last year, offering to annex into Mount Pleasant — the property lies a quarter-mile from Shem Creek in a neighborhood never incorporated by the town. But they were basically told to not bother. Council has the town under an apartment moratorium.

And even if there were no moratorium, impact fees that run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars would complicate the deal.

“This is a project years in the making for us,” Harper says. “We had big aspirations for the entire assemblage. The impact fees and height reduction made it hard for the numbers to work. The only way to get sewer was to annex and pay all the fees.”

Basically, there’s no way for Gramling to build its dream development without hooking into the town’s sewer system. And there’s no way to make that work with those steep impact fees, even if the town would approve such a project. Which it wouldn’t.

Problem is, the tenants of Peach Orchard Plaza who have been there for years can’t afford to pay the rents national tenants pay.

A self-storage facility is pretty much the only thing that makes financial sense.

Inflexible

The nattering natives are up in arms.

Some want the town to stop this development, and a few have even suggested Mount Pleasant buy the land.

You can bet if this project moves forward, the protests will begin to sound like a replay of the cries over The Boulevard apartment complex and that parking garage/office building near Shem Creek — the two developments that led to this.

But Mayor Will Haynie is correct — there’s nothing Mount Pleasant can do, because the property lies outside town limits. The town gave up that right, and untold amounts of property tax revenue, when it refused to deal.

Of course, Mount Pleasant could do something. It could negotiate with Gramling and Charleston County and come up with a compromise. But that’s a dirty word in this climate.

So Coleman Boulevard will likely get a self-storage building, one that Harper says will be attractive and unobtrusive. People will still complain, and that’s unfortunate.

This is the result of politics, and it’s put many local companies in unwinnable situations. Before long, the only new business in Mount Pleasant will be corporate big-box stores that can afford monster impact fees.

And that certainly isn’t going to take the town back to 1980s-level traffic.

So residents should either lay off the pitchforks, torches and inflexible politics, or look on the bright side: A self-storage facility will generate even less traffic than what’s there now.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.