‘They’re going to . . .eventually run us out’

dhinshaw@thestate.comJuly 22, 2013 

Entrance to 148-acre tract on Bluff Road whose owners, a sewerage treatment agency called the East Richland Public Service District, are requesting a light industrial zoning designation. Some neighbors object.

DAWN HINSHAW

  • If you go

    What: Richland County Council’s zoning public hearing

    When: Tonight at 7

    Where: Richland County Administration Building, 2020 Hampton St., Columbia

Some folks who live along Bluff Road are fighting the expansion of industrial land toward Hopkins.

Tuesday, Richland County Council weighs a request to rezone nearly 148 acres from rural to light-industrial use.

Residents say the change would conflict with a long-standing promise by the county to staunch the creep of businesses along the road leading to the Congaree National Park.

The lawyer for the property’s owner, the East Richland Public Service District, said earlier this month the agency has no plans for the land but wants it rezoned to allow more flexibility.

The issue could be contentious: council chairman Kelvin Washington said he opposed any effort to guide projects with “a negative impact” to Lower Richland.

But some say the rezoning is linked to East Richland’s agreement to sell the county a separate tract it owns for creation of a 500-acre, super-industrial park off Pineview Road.

The citizen Planning Commission recommended approval of the change on a 6-1 vote.

Longtime resident Chuck Potts said when county leaders chose Bluff Road as the site for a detention center, they agreed Mill Creek near the jail would become a boundary for industrial use. The jail opened in December 1994.

Before that, Potts said, the county had used Longwood Road, closer to town, as the “imaginary line” where no industrial use would cross.

Potts said while the council has some different members now, they should take previous commitments into account.

“They’re going to keep on coming down the road and, eventually, run us out,” said Potts, whose home on 15 acres is surrounded by woods and hunt clubs.

A designation of light-industrial would allow a long list of potential uses, from indoor shooting ranges to truck-driving schools, bars and flea markets.

Potts said while East Richland has said the agency has no plans for the property, he would worry about the next owner.

Added neighbor James Davis: “Once they zone it, they can do what they want to.”

Davis said he’s not impressed by the operations at East Richland’s treatment plant on nearby White House Road. “We were trying to oppose that,” he said, “but they said there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Davis lives on two acres on Montgomery Lane, an area he said is “peaceful” but conveniently close to town.

“It should stay residential,” he said.

Planning Commission member Heather Cairnes said she’s concerned about “the general slide of light industrial” down Bluff Road.

The county has a tendency to rezone land based on uses nearby, Cairnes said. “Whether it’s Two Notch, Clemson Road, Bluff Road – wherever it is – as long as you can claim you’re close to something, we’re going to allow that ‘something’ to keep expanding,” she said.

She said it would make more sense to guide new industrial uses into “brownfields,” tracts where other businesses or industry have moved out.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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