By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published May 1, 2012
The Mount Pleasant Planning Committee voted to recommend that the town council keep a zoning code that would prohibit big box stores from coming to the town.
In July 2011, the town council voted in favor of an ordinance removing Section 156.103, Special Requirements Based on Project Size. Removing the code was intended to remove a footprint limit of 70,000 square feet for any individual commercial structure, unless the entire project area exceeded 50 acres.
That same footprint limitation appeared in another section of zoning laws, but that section was not removed. The section of code still applicable reads:
“No limitations on the square footage of structures will be imposed; however, footprints (defined as the space housing one commercial tenant, not an agglomeration of tenants’ spaces) of any individual structure will be limited to 70,000 square feet, unless the project area exceeds 50 acres.”
On April 18, the town Planning Commission voted 6-2 in favor of a motion denying the request that the second section of the Code of Ordinances be removed.
On April 30, the Planning Committee voted 3-0 to recommend a denial of the request to the full town council.
Town administrator Eric DeMoura said the removal of the second portion of the Code of Ordinances has to go before town council to allow them to clarify their original position.
“Because it was unclear as to what council’s intent was at the time, the only way to address the scenario was to go back to council,” DeMoura said.
He said he did not know where Mayor Billy Swails stood on the issue.
“Both provisions were identical,” DeMoura said. “Both referenced the size of the footprint. (Developers) always have the option of going two stories — or higher which is unlikely — as long as they stay within the 70,000-square-foot footprint.”
A slew of Mount Pleasant residents came out urging the committee to recommend denial, saying the town’s residents don’t desire big box stores.
Pat Sullivan, a community activist and Snee Farm resident, said she’s very concerned that although the committee is recommending denial, the town council will vote in favor of removing the code.
Sullivan said she believes removing the code will change the character of the town by allowing big box development.
“We’ve had it with big boxes,” she said. “There are plenty of other places to shop in North Charleston or West Ashley if that’s what you want.”
Controversy over the issue began when Henrich Properties submitted a proposal to develop a parcel of land known as Gregg Tract. Plans submitted for the 40-acre property included three large buildings totaling about 400,000 square feet.