Sprawl reaches Awendaw

Tupelo Forest is one of a few neighborhoods built in the general East Cooper area where Mount Pleasant and Awendaw are growing together. (Robert Behre/Staff)

A few Mount Pleasant residents recently received a powerful wake-up call pointing out just how unmanageable the town’s sprawl has become: an Awendaw address.

Some neighborhoods north of Wando High School are technically within Mount Pleasant town limits but are considered part of Awendaw by the U.S. Postal Service and other government agencies, businesses and even some smartphone apps.

And indeed they probably ought to be part of Awendaw. After all, that town was formed in 1992 partly to act as a rural buffer to Mount Pleasant’s northern growth. But in the ensuing years, Awendaw migrated southward and Mount Pleasant exploded northward, blurring the lines between the two communities.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page wants the Postal Service to allow residents of neighborhoods like Tupelo Forest and Pepper Plantation to use a Mount Pleasant address. The post office has so far resisted, saying that such a move could cause confusion and lead to lost or delayed mail.

It could serve as a parable for Mount Pleasant’s outward expansion. The lesson of the story is that sprawl must stop.

The neighborhoods in question lie almost 15 miles from the Cooper River bridge. Some new Mount Pleasant homes are less than a mile from the Francis Marion Nation Forest.

Growth is easily the top concern for Mount Pleasant residents and town officials. Dozens of concerned citizens show up to standing-room-only town meetings to complain about traffic, density and other growing pains. Neighborhoods on the edge of Awendaw are part of the problem.

That’s because pushing large numbers of residents so far northward inevitably creates a crush of traffic on the only roads that connect those homes to the rest of the Charleston area — namely Highway 17, Highway 41 and Interstate 526.

Some disgruntled residents and even a few town council members recently proposed a moratorium on new development. The town has tried it before, to mixed results.

Far more encouraging are efforts to draw density closer to the center of the metropolitan area — downtown Charleston — through a multi-year, multi-million dollar Coleman Boulevard revitalization initiative. The plan has faced staunch opposition, but it might be Mount Pleasant’s last, best hope.

Residents and town officials must choose between a denser, more vibrant “downtown” Mount Pleasant or a sprawling, gridlocked suburban chaos. The latter comes with an Awendaw address.