An eye on the future
Comprehensive planners seek input from residents on direction for East Cooper
The former Wando Restaurant on S.C. Highway 41 and the north shore of the Wando River sits empty, as it has for five years. Just across the Wando off Highway 41, Detyens Shipyard cranes hang over a twisted wooden dock.
With the exception of a handful of people milling about a gas station along the highway and some passing traffic, this route from Berkeley County into Mount Pleasant is quiet.
But growth and development rumble just beneath the surface.
The current draft of the town of Mount Pleasant's comprehensive plan identifies the area as a potential green waterfront gateway where development should be sensitive to homes on Highway 41 and the Wando River while "providing opportunities for deep-water access."
And property has been purchased with development in mind. Dick Catler of Carolina One Real Estate hopes to sell the Wando Restaurant and the house next to it on the north side of the bridge to a buyer who would reopen and expand the restaurant, possibly adding a dock over the salt marsh.
Just next door, a potential Cainhoy Village residential development would connect to a 56-acre parcel of land owned by Bennett Hofford Construction off Clements Ferry Road. A concept plan for the land includes several restaurants, a marina, a retirement community and commercial and residential buildings.
On the opposite side of the bridge, closer to Mount Pleasant, local businessman Joe Sharp wants to build a 40-slip marina.
"There's a lot going on," Catler said.
That's one of the reasons Mount Pleasant Town Council and the town's planning commission have asked residents for input on the town's future. The town's updated comprehensive plan draft suggests, on a framework map, how to develop property on the Mount Pleasant side of the bridge. It's part of the town's vision for the next decade.
Planning commissioners voted to recommend approval of the plan's final draft July 22 and now Town Council will examine the plan's details before holding a public hearing this fall. The time and date of the public hearing will be announced 30 days before the hearing.
Public meetings have been held on the plan since late 2008, but Mason Smith, Mount Pleasant Planning Commission chairman, said he would always like to see more residents chime in.
"We are trying to serve the community. We've got to know what the community would like," Smith said.
Public meetings thus far have revealed that people want more access to water, said Christiane Farrell, Mount Pleasant Planning Department director.
Creating water access and developing green water gateways are concepts new to the comprehensive plan.
Areas around the Highway 41 bridge and points within the Hamlin Farms neighborhood just south of Copahee Sound have been marked as a water access opportunity, although those areas lie outside the town boundary for now.
Increasing paths to the water is just a small part of the plan that lays out a vision for the town until 2019.
The Kmart Plaza along Bowman Road has been offered as a redevelopment opportunity, as well as all of Coleman Boulevard. The master plan to revitalize Coleman Boulevard allows people to double the density so long as new developments come without new curb cuts and traffic is directed to side roads.
The comprehensive plan also emphasizes development along the town's urban corridor linking Coleman, Chuck Dawley and Johnnie Dodds boulevards. The plan also marks out areas residents said they want to save and suggests creating a cultural landscape that would preserve and connect Boone Hall Farms, Hamlin Farms and the old Palmetto Fort at the end of Six Mile Road through the Sweetgrass Basket Cultural Overlay District.
Identifying community and neighborhood nodes are ideas new to the plan as well, Farrell said.
Community nodes marked on the map include places such as Belle Hall Shopping Center and Mount Pleasant Towne Centre. The nodes are intended to be mixed-use activity centers serving residents for several miles around while neighborhood nodes are commercial areas for neighborhoods similar to what one finds on Pitt Street in Mount Pleasant's Old Village.
Residents have said they would also like the town to encourage alternative transportation and build bike and pedestrian paths between those neighborhood and community nodes.
Mount Pleasant doesn't expect to see the growth and development of the past decade return anytime soon. According to the McKibben Report, a forecast on the town's population growth, the influx of new residents is expected to slow through 2025 and the town's average population will age.
"The most rapid growth of the town may be in the past, meaning that the challenges of the future will be more about managing existing development rather than controlling new development," the comprehensive plan states.
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