Mount Pleasant Town Council passed a six-month moratorium on multifamily developments Tuesday night, but some council members suggested the move didn’t go far enough and is mostly symbolic.
The halt, which passed by a 7-2 vote, goes into effect immediately like a similar moratorium approved by town council last year.
Councilman Paul Gawrych suggested that Councilman Joe Bustos’ motion to halt approving multifamily buildings to get a handle on infrastructure and improve the town’s finances should be two years instead of six months.
How they voted
“I frankly think that’s an administrative waste of time because of the saturation of apartments,” Gawrych said.
Gawrych said some apartment projects have been approved for 10 years and have yet to be built, which means several elections have been held between approval and now.
“I’m saying if we’re going to do six months, let’s do two years. If we’re going to get serious about this — and I appreciate the exemptions — I’m for putting, with the apartments being built, and what I’m seeing, six months is, wow, let’s go two years,” Gawrych said.
Bustos said he would prefer a halt to all building in Mount Pleasant except through a permit-allocation program, which the town used before the Great Recession to control growth, but he was sure that wouldn’t pass and didn’t think a two-year moratorium would pass either.
“You know I’ve proposed moratorium on all building and going to permit allocation as we did in the early 2000s when we managed growth,” Bustos said. “I don’t think that would pass here, just to be perfectly honest.”
Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page, who cast one of two votes against the moratorium, said developers aren’t asking for more multifamily projects to be approved by the town. She said there are permits out for apartments that “may or may not be built.”
“We haven’t had any projects brought to us for quite a few years,” Page said. “So, we’re going to do a comprehensive plan review.”
Page and Councilman Bob Brimmer said that multifamily developments should be part of a solution to affordable housing. The mayor has appointed a task force to look at affordable housing strategies and options for the town.
“Apartments are going to play a significant role in that strategy, I believe, and I think they should,” Brimmer said. “I think there are right places for apartments. I think there’s ways to put apartments in town when infrastructure is in place, but we really haven’t gone through that report yet in planning committee.”
Gawrych echoed Brimmer’s comments about the difficulty in dealing with affordable housing in Mount Pleasant.
“Maybe it’ll help us, our staff to separate out the affordable housing,” Gawrych said. “It’s that 3,000-pound elephant sitting in the room that we really don’t know how to tackle.”
Bustos said there are about 2,000 apartments in line to be built in Mount Pleasant, and the moratorium is to give time for the town to work through the developments that have been approved and those under construction.
He emphasized that the moratorium isn’t across the board for all housing. For example, senior housing is exempt, and Bustos said affordable housing also can be exempted from impact fees to encourage development.
“I think it’s wise to take a six-month break so that we can see if our capital improvement plan is going to be adequate,” Bustos said. “Six months, I think, is a relatively short time, but I think it’ll be long enough that we can get a view of what’s going on, and it’ll give us a breather.”