Flickr user Isaac Wedin
Mt. Pleasant Town Council voted down a 120-day moratorium on residential building permits Tuesday evening. The plan to rein in new development in what has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation was originally proposed by Councilman Joe Bustos, who argued that the town’s leaders are asking residents to sacrifice their quality of life in the face of such expansion.
“We’re so weighted over here with houses, ADUs (accessory dwelling units), apartments, and resulting traffic, and children in schools. We’re almost completely out of balance,” said Bustos. “And we need to do something to bring that balance back because what’s at risk is our quality of life.”
Many of the specifics of the proposed moratorium remained undecided at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Questions regarding which projects already in the approval process would be put on hold and the loss of building permit revenue to the town were met with few concrete answers.
“Staff has no direction, and they didn’t come prepared, I don’t believe, to answer all of the questions that have arisen out of this,” said Mayor Linda Page, who recommended that the plan be put before the town’s Planning Committee to study the true impact that a moratorium would have on the town’s budget. “You’re asking us to vote on something we’re very willing to discuss, but that we don’t know what we’re voting on.”
Bob Brimmer, chair of the Planning Committee, called the moratorium the “nuclear option” in dealing with Mt. Pleasant’s sustained development. Brimmer acknowledged that something must be done to curb the rapid growth that is taxing the town’s infrastructure, but felt that a more focused effort was necessary.
“There’s a lot of question, a lot of information that we just don’t have, and perhaps a lot of unintended consequences for acting so quickly,” he said. “I’m concerned about the property owner who wants to build a home or two on their property. We’re kind of lumping them in with the big developers in town. We’re not using a scalpel here. We’re taking a broad approach across the town.”
The proposed moratorium would have been the second major step that Mt. Pleasant leaders have taken to slow growth in the past year. This spring, Town Council approved a 180-day pause on approvals for new apartment plans. Although this most recent attempt to halt new residential projects was unsuccessful, several town officials are still examining other options to address Mt. Pleasant’s increasing development.
“I think we’re in a hole, and I think we need to stop digging,” said Councilman Will Haynie. “Just to compare growth rates, you’ve got to look at where we are toward capacity.”