More than two dozen neighbors of a potential 500-plus house development in a rural area near Blythewood turned out to speak at a Richland County zoning public hearing Tuesday night.
But they’ll have to wait to weigh in. The public hearing and County Council’s first vote on the related rezoning request was deferred until October – after Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson has had an opportunity to arrange a meeting with both the developer and the concerned community members.
Density and traffic top the list of worries some neighbors have brought up concerning the possible development.
Drapac Group, an Atlanta-based national and international real estate developer has asked the county for a zoning change that would allow as many as 529 houses to be built on a 202-acre tract off Heins Road in the northeast corner of the county. County staff and the county Planning Commission have recommended approval of the zoning request, saying the proposed development would fit into the county’s plans for the area as a transitional zone between rural and more urban development patterns.
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But “there’s no transition there,” said Jay Keefer, whose family lives about a mile from the possible development site.
“This is an anomaly in this area,” Keefer said. “Rural means country. It means having space, having green space. When it gets dark at night, it’s dark out. You can see the stars and hear the crickets. You don’t have a streetlight every 15 feet. You don’t have cookie-cutter houses.”
Besides encroachment on the rural setting he and his neighbors hope to maintain, Keefer also has concerns about the traffic impact on what he and others say are already overcrowded roads leading toward Blythewood and Interstate 77.
Vanessa Aten, who lives on Heins Road across the street from the potential development, drives her 5-year-old son to school in Blythewood and says she can’t imagine another 500 or more cars on the roads each day.
“I just don’t see where we’re going to be able to (accommodate) that traffic,” Aten said. “I actually think that it would probably be more costly to the county because they’re going to end up having to do road expansions.”
According to S.C. Department of Transportation figures provided by county staff in the developer’s zoning request, an average of 600 cars a day travel Heins Road, which is equipped to handle 8,600 average daily trips. But closer to Blythewood and the interstate, residents say, traffic tends to bottleneck.
Like Keefer, Aten said a development with fewer homes – say, around 250 or fewer, sitting on one-acre or larger lots – would be more in-line with the area’s rural character and more likely to be accepted by the community.
“What we can’t do is put 500 houses on that piece of property,” Dickerson told her constituents before they left Tuesday’s meeting.
She promised to arrange a meeting with the developer before the October zoning public hearing.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.