Mount Pleasant Town Council approved a 180-day moratorium on multifamily developments in the town during its meeting Tuesday night.
For the next six months, the town will neither accept nor consider applications for new multifamily developments. The halt to new developments went into effect immediately.
Multifamily developments in Mount Pleasant
Source: Mount Pleasant Planning Department
How they voted
Proponents of the measure, which passed 4-3 with two council members absent, argued the measure would help the town consider infrastructure needs at a time when growth is exploding East of the Cooper.
Several council members, including Mayor Linda Page, spoke against any moratorium. Page said she didn’t even like the use of the word. Several pointed to the town’s 2.91% growth rate based on dwelling units in 2015 and its ratio of single-family housing to multifamily housing as examples of why the moratorium was not needed.
Councilman Joe Bustos, who made the motion for the moratorium, said the town was falling behind in managing traffic, schools and infrastructure. He also said the town had failed to find a solution to its need for affordable housing, adding that a slower, more thoughtful approach could spark that in the future.
Bustos said that over the past five or six years, as several large-scale apartments and multifamily projects have been approved and built, none has included affordable housing.
He noted that a piece of property the town had set aside for affordable housing had been rezoned last year to single-family because the developer could not produce the housing.
“He just couldn’t make the numbers work,” Bustos said. “I think that’s the way it is in Mount Pleasant.”
Bustos said he hoped developers would come through with a workable plan for affordable housing if the town put the brakes on multifamily projects going forward.
“The development community, I believe, has the wherewithal, the understanding to come in and say, ‘I can produce affordable housing. I can produce senior housing,’” Bustos said.
Councilman Will Haynie, who seconded the motion, outlined 2,281 units that are either now under construction or have been approved.
“I want the business community, I want the apartment community to get the 10,000-foot view that we’re not closing Mount Pleasant for business. We’re not going out of the apartment business in Mount Pleasant,” Haynie said. “This is what’s coming online now.”
Haynie said he’d talked to other communities and discovered that the way to get affordable housing is to build it into communities instead of trying to sequester it to one area or piece of property.
“I think if we hit this pause button, we can work this out. We can build affordable housing. We can get our schools online and we can get our steps to (S.C.) Highway 41 widening,” Haynie said.
Patrick Arnold, government affairs director for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, argued that limiting supply of what he termed the only affordable housing options in Mount Pleasant would only make it more difficult for first responders and teachers to live in the town.
Councilman Elton Carrier, who voted against the moratorium, said the town and the council should trust the economy and supply and demand to take care of the growth of multifamily units.
“We live in quite a place here. Yes, we have growth. Yes, we have people who want to come here because of the beaches, because of Charleston,” Carrier said. “My goodness, we are so fortunate.”
Carrier said that just starting a moratorium, regardless of time limits, will have a negative impact on economic development in the town that will ripple through the business community.
“When you start something like this, it doesn’t turn around,” Carrier said. “You can say 180 days. You can say a year. It just doesn’t turn around. We get that connotation that we’re not open for business folks, and that’s a sad thing.”
Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.