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'There's no better place': MP Mayor talks growth, traffic and restoration at Chamber meet

February 23, 2024  Moultrie News

The subject of growth was on the mind of Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie during his appearance at the Feb. 21 Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce meeting at Alhambra Hall, as he promised local business leaders that "we will not over-develop."

Haynie maintained that while incoming and/or redeveloped shopping centers will continue to be a focus of his administration, the Town's three action pillars remain to protect, plan and restore (aka the Palmetto Principle).

On that front, he referenced a lawsuit that sees the Town and Mount Pleasant Waterworks at odds with a private development group seeking to add between 1,000-1,400 residences on the Republic Tract near Highway 41.

By allowing one investor group to develop under those circumstances, he said, would pave the way for every tract to follow suit.

Haynie further touched on his mission to create more affordable housing as part of an all-encompassing plan of fostering responsible and measured growth in Mount Pleasant.

"I talked about this at the (council) retreat, when I stood there at the Lucy Beckham [High School] graduation, and shook hands with the graduating class. The likelihood of any of them — other than living in a family-owned property — being able to to afford living in Mount Pleasant is slim and none," he added.

Haynie clarified that the affordable housing he alluded to wouldn't look like the old Joseph Floyd Manor in Charleston, which brought a host of issues to its community, including crime.

During the Q&A session of Haynie's presentation, Coldwell Banker realtor Cheryll Woods-Flowers spoke of the need to extend historic designation on 50-year-old-plus properties. This safeguarding measure, she remarked, would help ensure the presence of housing stock that's more affordable.

"It does not make me feel good that young people are not able to move into this town," she offered. "Not everyone can afford to live in a 3,100-4,000 square foot house on 1.9 acres."

On the topic of young citizens, Haynie also addressed the at-risk demographic of White males, ages 18-23, who are increasingly emerging as victims of depression and even suicide.

"And this is the same group that they found spend 75 percent of their free time playing video games," the mayor reported. "We are a predominantly White community; you've all seen our demographics. We're a wealthy community. There are a lot of teenagers that don't have to work in Mount Pleasant, but we can't lose a generation to this type of desperation."

The Citadel alumnus and one-time Commander of the Summerall Guards reminded the audience of the Town's "fair" ordinance to limit short-term rentals to 400, excluding grandfathered properties. This layer of protection prevents Mount Pleasant from becoming a "lock, stock and barrel" hospitality zone, he noted. 

Going forward, Haynie observed that state government must continue to allow municipalities to preserve the power to control the texture of the fiber of their respective communities.

When acknowledging local transportation, the second-term mayor, author and former journalist revealed a recent study counting 95,000 vehicles traveling through the Ravenel Bridge daily. That heavy traffic volume, he stated, has prioritized the process of gathering crash data and zeroing in on infrastructure improvements. One of the goals, it was noted, is to avoid scenarios where one accident ties up widespread traffic flow.

In rattling off Town priorities, Haynie highlighted wetland restoration and natural hydrology as two major areas of focus to improve drainage and resiliency.

The mayor's presentation included a six-and-a-half-minute video featuring last year's notable accomplishments relative to Mount Pleasant. These included the following:

• The adoption of commercial, low-impact design regulations to create a greener community by emphasizing sustainability.

• An automatic aid agreement with seven neighboring agencies, ensuring that the most appropriate firefighter unit responds to an emergency regardless of jurisdiction.

• Mount Pleasant's continued maintenance of its AAA Standard & Poor's and Moody's bond ratings, signaling financial strength and fiscal responsibility.

• Enhancing local transportation networks, such as the opening of the Vaughn Ed Kee Parkway in November.

• Carolina Park Recreation Complex Phase III is nearly complete and Memorial Waterfront Park Phase III is under construction "with fantastic new amenities."

• Rifle Range Road Park is in its design phase in the spirit of "promising even more recreational opportunities in the years to come."

At the end of the footage, Haynie listed some of the aspects that have earned the community its moniker of "Mount Perfect," including having the highest local real estate values, highest incomes, best schools and lowest crime.

"People move here and say, 'At 95,000, why is it called the Town of Mount Pleasant?' Well, we don't want to lose that. You know, watching [Fire] Chief (Mike) Mixon up here, my wife, a school teacher, taught both of his children at Jennie Moore [Elementary School] — that feels like a town to me."

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