The town of Mount Pleasant and Save Shem Creek buried the hatchet last week — and, quite surprisingly, it was not in each other’s scalps.
On Thursday, town officials and the grassroots organization agreed to drop their lawsuits against one another, ending their Mexican standoff. Officials called it a good day.
Let’s hope this peace lasts because it got ugly there for a while. Real ugly.
At the height of this battle, you had one side whispering about campaign donations to council members from the developer of the office building/parking garage on Shem Creek, and the other side taking aim at one of the Save Shem Creek members for blocking his neighbors’ view of said endangered creek with a big new house.
That’s no way to promote peace and harmony. Why, it’s downright Summerville-like.
There is still a bit of animosity among the parties, and it will linger awhile. That’s to be expected.
But hopefully the two sides can get through this and work together now. That would be good for Mount Pleasant.
Save Shem Creek still contends the zoning for the office building-parking garage is hinky, but realized their case was hamstrung as soon as construction began on that parking garage.
Still, they can take solace in the fact that all the other lawsuits currently pending against Mount Pleasant came about because the town blocked big developments.
In other words, the two sides may not be as far apart as they think.
Mount Pleasant is at a crossroads right now. Or maybe it’s a roundabout.
The town is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and managing that growth is no easy task.
Town officials don’t expect that to change, nor do they believe the anti-development grassroots movement is going anywhere anytime soon.
That’s probably correct, and the town would do well to listen — if not for the sake of the town, at least for the politics of it all. Look at the November election: the people who want smart growth management are the ones who vote.
Less than 12,000 of the town’s 60,800 or so registered voters turned out (44,000 votes were cast for council because each voter got to pick four). If you look at the precinct breakdowns, turnout was anemic in the northern reaches of the town, while it was heavy around old Mount Pleasant.
That’s no accident. Those are the people dealing with questions of high-density, like that Old Village neighborhood where they crammed two dozen houses on a lot the size of a postage stamp.
It’s where the Boulevard is. And now this office building and parking garage. The office building may not be as intrusive as the apartment complex, but it caught the wrath of the grassroots in part because it was too late to stop the Boulevard.
The town should heed that electoral message. Gathering places may be smart growth some places, but folks in Charleston don’t like it. And apparently opinions aren’t much different across the Cooper River.
Of course, based on the court dockets, these things should no longer be an issue. It seems Mount Pleasant is already putting the brakes on overdevelopment.
Councilman Will Haynie says it was a sad situation, seeing citizens having to go to court for redress. And sadder still that the town countersued its own people.
He’s right, there was no joy in it. And like all his colleagues, Haynie was glad to see this end.
He is among those hopeful the town can move forward at the right pace now.
“Save Shem Creek’s vision for Mount Pleasant goes far beyond the creek,” Haynie says. “It involves a sustainable growth management plan and preservation of the town’s quality of life. I share that vision and it applies to all of Mount Pleasant, regardless of the outcome of the parking garage.”
We will probably see more of that vision applied to future town decisions with Haynie and some of his cohorts sitting on the dais. They are dedicated to keeping Mount Pleasant from becoming one long strip of Boulevards.
But some of the old-timers are, too. What Save Shem Creek, and town officials, should take away from this dust-up is that there are stark differences of opinions, but if everyone is moderately pliable it will all work out in the end.
It’s nearly impossible to stop growth, but it can be done as unobtrusively as possible with some planning and reasonable compromise.
And, hopefully, fewer lawsuits.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org