South Carolina

Local NIMBYs Hold Up Medal of Honor Museum Over Height Concerns

Designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie, a planned Medal of Honor Museum is 75 feet too tall for local zoning codes.

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Mary Mallucci/Dreamstime.com

The Medal of Honor Foundation spent years planning a memorial for the recipients of the American military's highest honor. The famed architect Moshe Sadfie—designer of such iconic structures as Jerusalem's Holocaust memorial and Montreal's Habitat 67—has been tapped to design the building, which the foundation intends to erect in Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina. Sadfie envisions a sleek, pentagonal structure.

Designs were finalized back in 2015, and the foundation has raised $19 million of the $100 million it will need to finish the museum. Everything seemed to be falling into place—until it came time to get the government's approval. In January, the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission rejected the project nearly unanimously for being 75 feet too tall.

Sadfie's design calls for a 125-foot structure. But the plot where the foundation wants to build the museum is not zoned to allow buildings of more than 50 feet.

"I have ultimate respect for this project. I just think it's a little much," said Commissioner Roy Neal in January, just before he voted to reject the design.

The city council can approve variances for taller buildings, and other structures near their proposed site go as high as 80 feet. The flight deck of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, stationed right next to where the museum would be built, is nearly 100 feet high.

Nevertheless, the Mount Pleasant city council has refused to budge on the height issue, citing the character of the building, concerns about whether financing for the project will come together, and irritation at an alleged lack of consultation from the project's planners. Designs for the project were available for three years on the foundation's website.

In late May, the Foundation agreed to scrap its current design and committed to hearing community input on what the museum should look like. In late June, the foundation held the first of two public meetings on a new design, where community members expressed a desire that it be "awe-inspiring." Another public meeting is planned for later this month.

To be clear, the Medal of Honor Museum is no libertarian dream project. Some 20 percent of its funding comes from South Carolina taxpayers, and it is being built on public land owned by the Patriots Point Development Authority.

But the city's objections to the project do not hold that there has been too much government involvement, but rather that there hasn't been enough. "They didn't consult with town council," Mount Pleasant Councilman Joe Bustos complained to CityLab. In other words: They didn't do the requisite consultation and ring-kissing. And what good is a building without that?

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  1. “lack of consultation”= no payoff, no building.

  2. “The famed architect …”

    Famous for not knowing that cities have building codes

    1. Meh, he’s got a team of minions for that. If he took part at all, it’s likely he didn’t do more than toss out a sketch.

      1. Either that or he just assumed they would allow a variance but forgot to grease the right palms first.

  3. “and irritation at an alleged lack of consultation from the project’s planners.”

    And there you have it. Nothing pisses off bureaucrats more than having their authoritah disrespected.

  4. How about a one-floor mall? That wouldn’t violate the height requirement.

  5. The flight deck of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, stationed right next to where the museum would be built, is nearly 100 feet high.

    Island, probably. Flight deck, not so much, almost certainly within the 50 foot limit.

    And I’d think any architect worth his salt would design to the location, including taking into consideration local zoning.

    1. “Island, probably. Flight deck, not so much, almost certainly within the 50 foot limit.”

      Have you ever seen an aircraft carrier?
      Have you ever looked up the specifications for an Essex class carrier?

      1. Original profile blueprints are in Wikipedia – 109′ to the top of the masts. Looks like about 50′ to the flight deck to me.

      2. According to this the Height (Overall) of Yorktown is 143-ft.

        I’m not a naval architect, so I don’t know where that is measured from but I assume, for want of better information that it is from the waterline.

        1. Probably not –

          1 – Length is specified twice – overall and waterline. Height is only specified overall.

          2 – 109′ to top of mast + 28′ of draft at full load = 137′ close to the specified 143′.

          1. That occurred to me after I read your 3:20 post. I was doing other things before I actually posted.

            But yes, I think you are probably right.

            1. But still, it is unlikely that the building in question would in anyway dwarf Yorktown.

              What I find less plausible is that a major international architect “forgot” the check height requirements for the site.

              1. Forgot? Not likely. Is so famous that he thinks such rules are beneath him, that’s another story.

      3. I spent three.5 years on the next class, USS Midway.

        So yeah.

        1. The carrier is not fully loaded so its sit above the water line where you would expect it to sit.

          1. Museum ships are probably ballasted close to load waterline for stability reasons, and if nothing else, they don’t want the props half exposed.

            1. They’re called screws, not props. Suspicious.

    2. any architect worth his salt would design to the location

      That’s so pre-modern. Designing to fit in to a location fell out of favor about fifty years ago.

  6. South Carolina? Really?
    You want a tall building to honor America’s heroes?
    Anywhere in Texas except Austin. That puts it as far away from the lefties on both coastswho will just demonstrate against it.

  7. To be clear, the Medal of Honor Museum is no libertarian dream project. Some 20 percent of its funding comes from South Carolina taxpayers, and it is being built on public land owned by the Patriots Point Development Authority.

    Also it’s a museum dedicated to a function that no government should be engaging in.

    1. War isn’t an essential function of government?

      1. Well it does seem to be the essential function of this government, but I was referring to handing out medals.

        1. Why is handing out medals a function “that no government should be engaging in”? Especially, medals for valor in combat.

        2. I was referring to handing out medals.

          “Wars not make one great.”

    2. Well, this government can; Article I, Section 8, Clause 11.
      If a government should not engage in war, how is it to protect the citizens?

  8. This story misses the real question: Why is the nation’s highest honor a pentagram?

    1. Technically it’s an upside down pentagram. A proper pentagram would have one point up, two down, not two up and one down.

      1. It’s a pentagram regardless of orientation. Two points up generally signifies evil while one point up signifies good.

        1. Medal of Honor Convention Info
          Medal of Honor Convention

    2. Our nation’s founders were wise enough to predict the ascendance of Ronnie James Dio.

  9. Award every member of Mount Pleasant’s town council the Medal of Honor, and the building gets approved.

    Seriously, do I have to think of everything?

  10. Judging by his other works, maybe they rejected it because it’s ugly as hell.

  11. Public money and public land. Shouldn’t there be a public process?

    Posting designs to a website no one knows about …. sounds like Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  12. Statists vs. Statists. I should care?

    1. Because when statists fight, it’s individuals that end up getting punched in the face?

  13. FAKE NEWS in Reason. No NIMBYs here.
    Just the usual sleazy politicians pissed that their insignificant little council wasn’t consulted.
    There is currently a museum for the Medal of Honor recipients on board the carrier. Just leave it there and let the city council explain the jobs loss to the locals.

    1. Honestly, I’m not at all certain from the article that it’s even that bad.

      The city council can approve variances for taller buildings and Designs for the project were available for three years on the foundation’s website don’t necessarily imply to me that they even applied for a variance.

      I mean, yes, maybe the town council is being extraordinary dicks, and yes, zoning regulations are kind of shitty from a property rights perspective, but thinking “Oh, the law just doesn’t apply to me”, I mean… that’s reserved for cops and congressmen.


  14. Nevertheless, the Mount Pleasant city council has refused to budge on the height issue, citing the character of the building, concerns about whether financing for the project will come together, and irritation at an alleged lack of consultation from the project’s planners.


    Designs were finalized back in 2015, and the foundation has raised $19 million of the $100 million it will need to finish the museum.

    Seems reasonable, if you ask me. At that rate, they’ll have the funding to break ground in something like a decade.

    1. They’ll just get the balance of funding from the CongressCritters. Easy peasy.

  15. City Planning Commissions should be abolished as an unconstitutional infringement on private property rights. Eliminating my right to do something (that will not harm anyone else) with my property is a taking that should be prevented by the Fifth Amendment unless the government pays for the lost value.

    Sadly, we have about a hundred years of Supreme Court precedent opposing that common sense approach.

  16. “They didn’t consult with town council,” Mount Pleasant Councilman Joe Bustos complained to CityLab. In other words: They didn’t do the requisite consultation and ring-kissing.

    You misspelled “ass kissing.” Also, the town council probably didn’t get a chance to make sure all the right politically connected developers and contractors would be able to get a piece of the final project. It’s like Medal of Honor Foundation doesn’t even understand how to crony.

  17. This is not a nimby issue it was a previously approved rule and It was the architects job to be aware of local rules before starting the design.

  18. Anyone who has ever worked in or with government entities at the federal, state or local levels recognizes that it’s the bureaucrat with the least power who most jealously guards the few prerogatives he possesses. Roy Neal is a perfect example of that phenomenon.

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