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Funding plan approved for Forest Drive traffic improvements

tdominick@thestate.com

Richland County Council on Tuesday gave second approval to a request that would allow Forest Acres to pay for Forest Drive traffic improvements with property tax revenue from the proposed Cardinal Newman School site redevelopment.

The council voted 8-1 with little discussion to approve the request to turn the 12-acre site on the busy commercial corridor into a business park.

The move would allow 50 percent of the property tax revenue for a planned $58-million mixed-used development there to pay for a $3.2 million computerized traffic signal system designed to improve the flow of cars on Forest Drive.

Forest Acres City Council members Frank Brunson, Beau Powell and Curt Rye attended the meeting and said they were encouraged by the vote.

Each said they would feel comfortable giving final approval to The Beach Co. of Charleston’s project in a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Their three votes are the minimum required for approval on Forest Acres’ five-member council.

“If we don’t, I think we’re going to lose the project,” Rye said.

The project would bring 256 luxury apartments, plus townhomes and retail space, to the former Cardinal Newman School site. But The Beach Co. has said it can’t wait much longer to receive the city’s approval.

The Beach Co. has offered to pay for several traffic solutions, but critics of the project have pushed for a more comprehensive approach to Forest Drive’s speeding cars, dangerous left turns and badly timed traffic lights.

Forest Acres officials say this request should ease some of those concerns.

Richland County Council is set to consider the request again at its June 7 meeting.

“I’ve been optimistic about it all along,” Brunson said.

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