Citizens petition and protest
against Historic Railroad Depot
plans in Mt. Pleasant City
By James Tilson
Oct. 19, 2017
MT. PLEASANT—The development of the Historic Railroad Depot on the south end of Mt. Pleasant’s Main Street continues to be stridently opposed.
However, city leaders have answers to the concerns of citizens, and they gave those answers at a meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Prepared with information from previous meetings and a report by developer George Jones, councilmembers countered antipathy toward the project, which would create a touristy motel out of railroad boxcars.
City resident Tia Johansen, continuing the opposition she had previously addressed to the council, informed the council that in addition to her fear of the site becoming a crime hazard, which she had previously enunciated, it had also become a safety concern. She told the council that an elderly person and a child had both been hurt at the site, noting that the site had not been properly fenced off.
Johansen also accused the development of being in violation of the city’s zoning codes, which listed the area as being in the public facilities zone. She said that if the city wanted to change the zoning of a city property, there had to be a public hearing, which to date there had not.
Johansen lastly presented to the council a list with the signatures of 126 people on a petition who all agreed that the depot, adjacent to the city park, was the wrong location for the railcar development, and that the cars were not “historic cabooses,” as is the railcar west of the depot-turned-craft-store.
Monte Bona, executive director of the Mt Pleasant City Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA) addressed the zoning issue. He said proper usage of the site had been put before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission’s decision was that the development would be consistent with uses permitted under the zoning ordinance. Therefore, since no zone change would be necessary, neither was a public hearing necessary.
George Jones, developer of the “Track 89 North” site, reported to the council. He admitted that Johansen’s assertion of people being injured was correct. He said the site had been improperly fenced, contrary to his instructions, and announced that he took responsibility for the injuries and would personally oversee rebuilding of the fence.
He also told the council that he would personally build a new soccer field for the city after the current season.
Jones reported that as for any personal injuries occurring on the site, his company had taken out a liability insurance policy, with a $1 million per person per injury limit.
Jones admitted that the new railroad cars arrived as an eye-sore. However, he had decided to move them to the location before re-painting them so as to be able to paint over any marks made during transportation.
Jane Banks, the Mt. Pleasant City recorder, provided minutes of the CDRA going back to December 2015, and showing where the development had been discussed and approved. She also provided the public hearing held on Feb. 4, 2016, where the development of the site was the subject of the hearing.
Jones informed the council he had come to the meeting with a cashier’s check to exercise the purchase option for the site, if that would make the city’s job any easier.
Councilman Kevin Stallings said it was not the right time to make that particular decision.
“It is premature to consider purchase,” Stallings said, considering all the delays and whether the development will actually become operational.
Stallings also addressed the location concern brought up by Johansen. He reminded those in attendance that the development was predicated on the value of a historic railroad depot site. If they could not develop there, then the development would not happen. “The Depot is the spot, otherwise the answer is ‘no,’” he said.
Jones reported that two railroad cars have been painted, and others will be when placed on tracks. The rest of the cars will arrive next week, and will be craned onto the tracks at that time. All cars will be unmovable.
Jones asked if the council would allow for 11 cars to put in place. Stallings said that the agreement was for only seven, and that he would want to see if those all fit in place before considering any more cars.