MOUNT PLEASANT — Days after some Town Council members warned the results could ultimately be rejected, a volunteer committee began work Tuesday to create the town's next Comprehensive Plan.
The 34-member forum, as the town calls the group, is expected to spend about year creating the fast-growing, affluent town's vision for the future, including development and traffic plans.
Last week, following complaints from the Save Shem Creek group that the forum doesn't include enough volunteers motivated by concerns about over-development, Town Council debated changing the group's membership.
That effort was narrowly rejected, but Councilmen Joe Bustos and Will Haynie warned that Town Council could end up rejecting the Comprehensive Plan if it doesn't produce what Bustos called the "desired result."
If that happens, said Bustos, “a year from now, when they complete their work, they’ll offer something that would be rejected by the council, and we’ll go back to square one."
As the nearly three-dozen East Cooper residents met for the first time in Town Hall at noon Tuesday, none expressed concern about the recent criticism as they introduced themselves at the start of a three-hour meeting. Most said they were motivated by a desire to get involved in their community and work on solutions.
"We're at the beginning of a long journey here, together," consultant Greg Dale of McBride Dale Clarion told the group. "I would hope that none of you come to this table with a preconceived idea of how it should turn out."
Forum volunteer Lorraine Cichowski, like most of the town's adult residents, did not grow up there. Mount Pleasant had just over 30,000 residents in 1990 and has nearly 84,000 now.
"The growth has been stunning to me," Cichowski, who bought a house in the town five years ago, said while introducing herself.
The forum is tasked with creating the town's new Comprehensive Plan, a non-binding framework intended to lead decisions about the physical growth and environment of Mount Pleasant for the next generation. At the same time, they will help create the town's new long-range transportation plan, the first since 2006.
Dale said the Comprehensive Plan "should be the aspirational vision that guides everything else the town does."
When complete, it would be reviewed by the town's Planning Commission, then sent to Town Council for approval. Between now and then, there's an election in which half the seats on council are on the ballot.
Residents who were not appointed to the forum — 275 had volunteered to serve — will still be able to participate. A Comprehensive Plan Open House is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 17 in Council Chambers at Town Hall.
The long-range transportation plan is being developed at the same time — which is unusual — because in Mount Pleasant debates about development have gone hand in hand with concerns about traffic.
Jennifer Humphreys, vice president and senior transportation planner at CDM Smith, serves as the town's consultant for that plan.
She said the group will be tackling broad transportation questions in the town, including mass transit and the challenge of easing rush-hour traffic.
"We don't just look at where we need another lane on the roadway," she said.