Mt. Pleasant moratorium timely ‘reset’

The Boulevard apartements on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant reflect the town's rapid residential growth. (Wade Spees/Staff)

With 2,200 new apartments currently under way and about 300 more than that approved, I voted with the majority of Mount Pleasant Town Council to enact a 180-day moratorium on new apartment complexes.

When you look at the facts and put aside the opposition’s rhetoric, it’s easy to see that we are not hanging out a “Closed For Business” sign.

The timing is opportune for such a moratorium.

Again, opinions aside, the proof is in the numbers. In 2015, Mount Pleasant issued the second highest number of building permits in the town’s history. The overall growth figure of 2.9 percent may look reasonable on a year-by-year comparison, but it’s 2.9 percent of a much bigger number than in prior years. The amount of 2.9 percent of Bill Gates’ net worth is a heck of a lot bigger number than 2.9 percent of yours and mine.

There are 35,546 dwellings in Mount Pleasant, and the town’s goal (not an ordinance) has long been a 70-30 ratio of single family to multifamily, with multifamily including town homes, condos, and apartments.

There are 9,554 multifamily dwellings in Mount Pleasant built over the town’s entire history. So you can see that the 2,200 multifamily units being built in this one year alone is a huge percentage of all the multifamily dwellings built in town since George Washington boarded a barge on Shem Creek on his way to Charleston in the 1700s.

The 180-day moratorium will not appreciably affect the market at all.

It is not a municipality’s duty to manipulate markets. Real estate prices here will rise as long as America has a mobile population that chooses to relocate to desirable, Southern coastal towns like ours. Nothing the town government does will change that free market force.

But it is the town government’s job to look after its citizens who already live here, and to achieve concurrency of infrastructure with population growth.

This is where, in the view of many of us and demonstrated in the themes and results of the 2015 election, there has been a failure of leadership.

This is visible in the increased traffic, the fact that there are thirty trailers at our public schools north of the IOP Connector, Highway 41 grades an official “failing” level of service, and there is new construction almost everywhere you look.

Our new school at Carolina Park and the new high school are both several years from completion.

This is why town council also recently directed staff to give us, in the next month, an evaluation of all the town’s impact fees associated with new development. Our traffic impact fee has not been updated in 10 years.

It’s obvious that development does not pay for development, otherwise we’d have the money in hand to offset the costs of fixing Highway 41, building new schools, etc.

Someone is subsidizing all that, and guess who it is?

The residents, of course, and it’s time they got a break.

There is also a newly formed Affordable Housing Task Force appointed by the mayor.

The task force will recommend to council ways to achieve some degree of affordable housing in our expensive town, hopefully without attempting to manipulate the market.

Here again, this is not some sort of big government entitlement. This adds value to property by ensuring the community will have homes for teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMT workers and municipal employees. It’s part of the necessary fabric of a healthy, complete community.

So while there are over 2,000 new apartments coming on the market this calendar year, our moratorium gives the citizens and their government a break, time to hit the reset button, to work toward getting a majority of council to support a true growth management plan and build a healthy future for Mount Pleasant.

Will Haynie is a member of Mount Pleasant Town Council.