Let Mount Pleasant grow up

The Boulevard development has helped spark a discussion of building heights in the Coleman Blvd. area of Mount Pleasant. (File/Staff)

The Mount Pleasant Planning Commission wants developers to keep it down - about 15 feet closer to the ground, to be exact.

Last week, the commission proposed that the town lower the current height limits for new construction from 75 feet in select zones near Coleman Boulevard to 60 feet.

The debate over building height stems largely from the construction of The Boulevard, a controversial mixed-use development along Coleman that opened in December. Plans for a second phase of the development were approved earlier this month.

Proponents of the relatively high-density development argued that it would bring residents closer to the places where they work and play, reducing the need for cars. Some claim that hasn't been the case, arguing that such a goal is all but impossible in an area designed for vehicle traffic.

But many of the criticisms facing The Boulevard and the greater issues of urbanization in Mount Pleasant apparently ignore the larger point that the town is growing at a relentless pace and must find a way to accommodate large numbers of new residents. In recent years, their numbers have been in the thousands.

Mount Pleasant continues to call itself a town, but at 70,000-plus, it's really a city.

Already stretching to the limit of its northern and western boundaries, Mount Pleasant can hardly afford to continue expanding outward. Doing so would add to the urban sprawl that replaces forests and fields, and would exacerbate the traffic that many residents erroneously blame on The Boulevard and similar high-density projects.

New development in Mount Pleasant should focus on moving the city towards a more sustainable future that allows residents fewer and shorter commutes, easier pedestrian and bike access, and a greater concentration of mixed-use areas that bring residents closer to services, schools, shops and restaurants.

Reducing the height limit is a step away from that goal in an urban environment.

Most Mount Pleasant residents probably won't be able to trade their cars for walking shoes in the foreseeable future.

Traffic will undoubtedly remain a headache.

But the town leadership should look up rather than out when envisioning future development.