Smaller Cambridge Square gets Mount Pleasant’s OK

The undeveloped land around this Park West traffic circle is the site for the proposed Cambridge Square development.

MOUNT PLEASANT — A controversial apartment and retail complex known as Cambridge Square took a step forward Monday, but only after Park West’s developer vowed to build 1,600 fewer residential units than currently allowed.

Still, that did not satisfy everyone, including Steve Gilder, president of the newly formed Park West-Dunes West Homeowner Association Boards Alliance Inc.

Gilder told Town Council’s Planning & Development Committee on Monday that the apartment, home and retail development “is not in keeping with the character, charm and, most importantly, the promise we bought into.”

Jimmy Bagwell, chairman of Save Shem Creek, said the nonprofit group also opposes the current plan. “This will be a disastrous situation for their neighborhood,” he said. “We think this is the wrong development in the wrong place, just like a lot of others have been.”

However, committee members still voted 2-1 to recommend approval for the zoning change, which would allow 240 apartments, 65 other homes and a total of 52,000 square feet of commercial space to be built on 34 acres surrounding the Grey Marsh Road and Park West Boulevard traffic circle.

Councilman Paul Gawrych, who voted for it, said the town’s hands are tied in part by a zoning master plan for Park West that allows 5,281 units there — far more than have been built so far.

“If you don’t work it out here, there is going to be an apartment complex in another part of Park West,” he said.

Earlier this year, the town rejected another version of the apartment complex. Since then, developer Kevin Steelman and residents have worked to come up with a different, better plan.

That new plan reduced the number of proposed apartments from 262 to 240, will require commercial space on the first floor, lowered maximum building heights from 50 feet to 45 feet, and reduce Park West’s maximum build-out from 5,281 homes to 3,600.

Committee Chairman Chris O’Neal praised the changes made, calling them “a marked improvement.” Still, he cast the sole opposing vote, saying, “If it were less multifamily and more single family, I’d be more comfortable.”

Residents speaking out against previous versions of Cambridge Square noted the traffic circle already clogs up in the morning as nearby schools begin — and some have emailed pictures of these traffic jams to urge town officials to reject the plan.

But Councilman Mark Smith voted for the zoning change even though he lives nearby. “I unfortunately am part of the problem,” he said of the traffic. “I thank you folks for emailing those pictures, but I don’t need any more. I live it.”

The developer originally envisioned a large retail complex around the traffic circle, but previous attempts at that ended before construction began. Steelman said the proposed mix of apartments and less retail is what the market will bear.

Town Council is expected to vote on the zoning change at its May 12 meeting.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.