Residents Stall Rezoning

Firetower map conv copyBLYTHEWOOD – In addition to two parcels of land on Rimer Pond Road being on the block for Rural Commercial (RC) zoning at the Richland County Planning Commission last week, a 10-acre parcel on Firetower Road was also on the agenda for General Commercial (GC) zoning but was withdrawn by the applicant just before the Commission started proceedings.

Residents on Firetower Road signed a petition opposing the rezoning and Caleb Thomas and several others who live near the proposed rezoning were prepared to present the petition to the Commission had the matter been taken up. The applicant must now wait 90 days before bringing the rezoning request back before the Commission.

The parcel in question, which adjoins the Carl Harris neighborhood and lies to the west of Dawson’s Creek and Dawson’s Pond neighborhoods, is owned by the S.C. Forestry Commission and was for years the site of a fire tower that served the Blythewood area. According to an employee with the S.C. Budget and Control Board who was not authorized to speak on the matter, the parcel is sold pending the rezoning of the property from Rural (RU) to GC. The source said it is the buyer who has initiated the rezoning. Because the parcel is state-owned land, the sale had to be approved by the General Services Department of the Budget and Control Board which issued an Invitation to Bid and initiated a sealed bid process for purchase.

Residents say they are worried about the parcel being rezoned for General Commercial uses which include motorcycle and go-cart tracks, bus facilities, multi-family housing, restaurants, theaters, department and grocery stores, liquor stores and more.

At last month’s Town Council workshop, Blythewood’s economic development consultant, Ed Parler, said he would like to see the area opened up for commerce by extending Creech Road (which runs off Blythewood Road in front of Hardee’s back to the Holiday Inn Express) down to Firetower Road which exits onto Highway 21 (Wilson Boulevard).

For the extension to materialize and connect to Firetower Road, it would need access through three properties: a 36-acre parcel along I-77 owned by Margaret Dubard, et. al.; a 27-acre parcel of land owned by the Richland School District Two that runs between the high school and I-77 and the 10-acre parcel owned by the S.C. Forestry Commission. In the past, the school district has not warmed to the idea of the Creech Road extension. Parler told The Voice that he had not discussed the Creech Road extension possibilities with the district, that he did not know their stance on it and that he had no involvement with anyone purchasing or seeking to rezone the Forestry Commission property for commerce.

Bruce Keen, a resident of Carl Harris Road, a quiet wooded neighborhood lined with tidy homes on large lots, told The Voice that he may be the only one in the neighborhood who would welcome commercial. He said owns a triangular lot on Firetower Road which he currently rents out for a cell tower.

“The rental runs out in two years,” Keen said, “so that property would be in a good place to become commercial. It’s a gold mind for me.”

But others along the road oppose the rezoning to commercial and say a connection between Creech Road and Firetower Road would turn the quite rural road into a thoroughfare.

“If that extension becomes reality that will open Firetower Road up to a lot of traffic, including school traffic,” said Thomas. “Firetower Road would become a racetrack from Hardee’s through these neighborhoods to Highway 21. And that would ruin this nice quite area. We love it here.”

Dawson’s Creek and Dawson’s Pond subdivisions are both in the Town of Blythewood as are some properties on Carl Harris Court and Firetower Road. Others, including the Forestry Commission parcel, are in the unincorporated area of Richland County.

Because the agenda item was withdrawn, it cannot be brought back for consideration by the Planning Commission for 90 days.


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