MOUNT PLEASANT — A prohibition on new apartment and condominium developments has been extended for a seventh year, until mid-March 2024.
Previous plans to extend the town's apartment and condo ban into 2025 were scaled back just before the most recent moratorium extension was approved.
Municipalities need a justification to impose a moratorium, and the latest reason for Mount Pleasant is that more time is needed to rewrite zoning regulations to match up with the town's Comprehensive Plan.
Previously, the moratorium was said to be needed so that the town's infrastructure could catch up to its rapid population growth.
A 180-day moratorium was imposed in 2016, and after it expired the town imposed a new one in March 2017 that's been in place ever since.
Mayor Will Haynie said the zoning code update should be accomplished within a year, so a two-year extension of the moratorium was not needed.
"We all agree that governing by moratorium is not the best way to do that," he said, just before Town Council's unanimous vote on March 14, with Jake Rambo absent.
The town's rapid development and population growth, and the resulting traffic, has prompted residents to elect Town Council members who pledged to slow things down. And so they have.
In addition to the moratorium, Mount Pleasant limits annual building permits, particularly for multi-family buildings. Even without a moratorium, there are no permits left this year for apartments or condos.
An earlier permit limit was in place from 2001 into 2008, and focused on single-family homes.
More recently, the town greatly increased its impact fees for development, reduced the allowed height of new buildings in many areas, and has been changing zoning rules to allow fewer dense residential developments.
Charleston Trident Association of Realtors representative Josh Dix was the only person to address council members prior to the moratorium vote. He urged that they not approve it.
"In order for us to plan for the next generation we need housing options, and single-family homes are not the only answer," he said.
With all the restrictions, some residents may wonder why some new apartment complexes have been built nonetheless. Just two months ago, the 224-apartment Atlantic Beach House opened on Ben Sawyer Boulevard.
That apartment complex was initially blocked by the town in 2015 but was later allowed as part of a 2017 settlement that ended a lawsuit against the town.
Growth and development was a top election issue in the town in 2015, and Mount Pleasant became the most-sued municipality in the state for development-related disputes.
Other apartments created in recent years were either approved prior to the moratorium or allowed under existing development agreement contracts with the town. The last time a new apartment development was submitted to the town for review was in 2015.
The town moratorium has since 2019 included an exception for "attainable" below-market-rate housing, but no such apartment or condo developments have been proposed.