City Commission approves zoning regulations to allow multiple hotels downtown
It’s been decades since downtown Mount Pleasant was home to multiple hotels, but this could once again become a reality under a newly approved zoning code.
City commissioners approved an ordinance on Monday that would allow officials to consider hotels on a case-by-case basis downtown, an area otherwise largely zoned for commercial businesses.
“There were two big hotels downtown,” said City Manager Kathie Grinzinger. “It must be somewhere between the 1950s and whenever they changed the zoning ordinance and took the hotels out. Now you’re thinking if you really want to have a walkable, vibrant community, you have to have people staying overnight. So it made sense.”
The decision comes after both the City and Planning commissions’ approval of a special use permit for constructing and opening the Ginkgo Tree Inn, 309 N. Main St., last year.
During Mount Pleasant’s former boom as the state’s oil capital, the Park and Bennett hotels were open at separate downtown intersections.
As a long-time city resident, Commissioner Sharon Tilmann recalled to officials her memories of the facilities. She pointed to specific businesses that had been open below the hotels, and she remembered when the hotel at Broadway and Court streets was demolished.
“I appreciate the Planning Commission taking the time and the effort to bring this forward,” Tilmann said. “I was rather surprised when it was brought to our attention that the current ordinance did not allow hotels downtown.”
As the approved zoning regulations are limited to downtown, it includes provisions that only allow access to hotel rooms internally from inside a facility.
This is in addition to applicant requirements officials would look for in a hotel’s scale and design, its parking, how its presence affects traffic through neighborhoods and the surrounding area, and how a new establishment would impact planned uses of the land around it.
Commissioner Jon Joslin questioned whether the ordinance should also prevent future hotel proposals from including one-story facilities.
“I would hate to see a one-story hotel build up on parcel B. I think that would be a great tragedy to our downtown aesthetics,” Joslin said. “Everybody says, ‘You know, you’ve got the special use permit,’ but that is very interpreted language … and as our Planning Commission has changed over the years, we’ve seen that interpreted (much) differently.”
Upon Joslin’s inquiry, Jeff Gray, the city’s director of planning and community development, suggested commissioners include language that limits future hotels to a two-story minimum if they wished to amend the ordinance.
Some commissioners expressed discomfort with approving an amendment along with the ordinance without further discussion. However, a 4-3 vote declined sending it back to city planners.
Commissioners eventually approved the two-story minimum requirement in a 5-2 vote, and the overall zoning ordinance was approved unanimously.
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