East Boundary Street residents are fighting plans to build a new fire station on a skinny, sometimes busy road across from a retirement community in Chapin.
Lexington County is in the process of buying 4.1 acres from the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission for $225,000, with plans to turn the baseball field into a fire station. The old station at the Chapin town complex is so small trucks need to be parked across the street, county officials said.
But the East Boundary Street property is a bad choice, according to neighbors.
- The road is narrow and has no shoulders for people to pull off to make way for fire trucks. The speed limit is 25 mph.
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- Traffic patterns are erratic, with heavy use by students at nearby Chapin High School before and after school, parents dropping off and picking up children at a day-care center and 18-wheelers coming to a bait company on the road.
- And the proposed station will be across the street from the Generations of Chapin retirement community, where about 120 older people live.
"Pulling out into East Boundary is difficult enough for (the elderly residents) now," said Louetta Slice, chief executive officer of Generations. "With red lights and sirens, I'm afraid they will panic."
Ambulance drivers coming to Generations for years have agreed to turn off sirens as they near the complex to reduce the stress on residents, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer's.
"Those people get upset when they hear sirens, and it takes us hours to calm them down," Slice said. "Can you imagine what will happen when it's 2 o'clock in the morning and the fire trucks take off with their sirens blasting? That's cruel and unusual punishment."
Johnny Jeffcoat, who represents the area on County Council, said this is the first time he has run into such opposition to a new fire station. "Usually people greet (fire stations) with open arms," he said. "They welcome the idea that they'll have fire trucks, ambulances and sometimes police nearby."
Jeffcoat has met with residents opposed to the plan and tried to reduce their concerns. Fire trucks don't use their sirens until they encounter traffic, which means they shouldn't be blaring at 2 a.m., he said. And other fire stations in the county coexist well with neighboring schools.
The county has been looking for suitable property for a new Chapin station for five years, he said, and this is the best deal they could find.
Opponents of the East Boundary station hope to voice their concerns at the Dec. 8 meeting of County Council. While the county has signed a contract to purchase the property, the deal is on hold for standard environmental tests. The opponents hope that delay gives them time to stop the deal.
Slice is willing to buy the property for what the county plan to pay and has found other property owners in a more suitable area willing to sell, she said.
Judy Folk, another East Boundary resident who is leading the opposition, would hate to lose the ball field. Neighborhood children play on the field, and elderly residents get exercise by walking on the property, she said.
"I truly hope Chapin gets a new fire station," Folk said. "They need it, but not on East Boundary."