Rimer Pond Road Issue Heads to County Planning Commission

The owners of properties on opposite ends of Rimer Pond Road are asking Richland County for commercial zoning that, if granted, would allow the first commercial zoning on the rural road.

The owners of properties on opposite ends of Rimer Pond Road are asking Richland County for commercial zoning that, if granted, would allow the first commercial zoning on the rural road.

Property Owners Seek Commercial Zoning

Yellow signs posted to notify residents on Rimer Pond Road of proposed commercial zoning on the road.

Yellow signs posted to notify residents on Rimer Pond Road of proposed commercial zoning on the road.

BLYTHEWOOD – The owners of two separate properties on Rimer Pond Road will come before the Richland County Planning Commission Monday at 1 p.m. to request the zoning on their properties be changed from Rural (RU) to Rural Commercial (RC). One is a 2.76 acre parcel (tax map number R15100-06-26) owned by John Warren of Chapin and located about 700 feet from Highway 21. The other is a 5.23 acre tract that is part of a larger 31.23 acre parcel (tax map number R20500-04-27) owned by Pat Palmer of Sycamore Development LLC and located at the intersection of Rimer Pond Road and Longtown Road across from the Blythewood Middle School.

The Richland County planning staff has recommended (to the Planning Commission) against commercial rezoning of the Warren parcel near Highway 21 but recommended in favor of Rural Commercial zoning of the 5.76 acre parcel located at Longtown Road and Rimer Pond Road.

There is no other commercial zoning on the entire length of the road and the staff report acknowledges that the area is surrounded by wooded areas and large acre properties. According to Suzie Haynes, Boards & Committees Coordinator for Richland County, RC zoning allows many kinds of businesses including liquor stores, restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores with gas pumps, pawn shops, motor vehicle sales and more.

The Planning Commission is a recommending body to County Council and has no zoning authority. Council makes all final decisions regarding zoning. The Commission is also not obligated to adhere to staff recommendations.

Historically, residents of the road have turned out in large numbers at hearings in the County to protest commercial zoning proposed along the road. But Trey Hair, a resident of the road who works in Columbia, said holding the hearing in the middle of a work day always prohibits many residents from attending.

“These meetings should be held in the evenings so everyone who wants to can attend and speak out,” Hair said.

Mary Lee, whose family has owned a farm on the road for almost 40 years, has spoken out against commercialization of the road at a number of Planning Commission and County Council meetings. And she plans to be there again on Monday.

“We are a rural area with mostly farms, churches, schools, large-acre residential properties and some neighborhoods,” Lee said. “Once commercial starts, it will move down the road.”

When contacted by The Voice about the 5.23 acre property further up the road, Palmer of Sycamore Development, LLC, who both owns the property and is Chairman of the Richland County Planning Commission that will be hearing and voting on the rezoning request, would not comment, saying he did not want to answer any questions regarding the rezoning.

It was previously reported in The Voice that the owner of the other property, Warren, wrote a letter to Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross on Feb. 17 seeking the mayor’s support for the commercial zoning request. Warren wrote in the letter, “Though I would hate to do this to the community, if we can’t get it rezoned, we plan to divide the property and locate mobile homes on (it),” which Warren said he would rent out.

The mayor told The Voice he asked the Town’s Planning Commission Chairman, Malcolm Gordge, who is appointed to the Commission and has no jurisdiction over the zoning, to reply to Warren. The Voice obtained from Gordge a copy of a letter dated Feb. 24, in which Gordge wrote to Warren, “The Mayor and I have discussed your desire to amend the zoning of the property in question . . . to Commercial and we would like to help you if at all possible.”

Gordge went on to offer the assistance of the Town Hall staff to help Warren achieve his goal of commercial zoning for the property.

When a number of Rimer Pond residents opposing the commercial zoning attended a Blythewood Planning Commission meeting on March 2 where the letter from Warren was on the agenda to be discussed, Gordge did not reveal that he had corresponded with Warren offering his help.

During public comment time at the meeting, Hair, speaking for other residents in attendance, told the Commission, “While we are not residents of the Town, we are in the community. We shop here, attend Blythewood churches and schools and participate in the community’s activities. We would ask that you support us, the majority who do not want the commercialization of Rimer Pond Road rather than support (Warren) who has never lived here, will never live here and simply bought the piece of property to rezone it and sell for a profit. Once it (Warren’s property) becomes commercial, that commercial will domino right down the road.

“We live here,” Hair said. “We don’t have a sign like Cobblestone, but it is our community and I just want to go on record against commercial zoning on Rimer Pond Road. I ask for your support in our objections to commercial zoning on our road.”

Gordge told Hair, “We have some sympathy with your views, but that area has been earmarked (by the Master Plan) for some type of commercial zoning.”

But Town Councilman Bob Massa, who was a member of the Town’s Planning Commission when the area was designated in the Master Plan for commercial zoning, told The Voice that the Town government (previously) agreed to the residents’ requests and did not further pursue commercial zoning on the road. However, the Master Plan still reflects the commercial ‘node.’

Gordge told Hair that commercial zoning might not be as bad as the residents envision.

“It’s easy for you to say it’s not going to be as bad as I feel it will be,” Hair said, “but once the commercialization begins, we won’t be able to stop it. It will domino.”

The hearing for the rezoning of both properties will be held at the Richland County Building at the corner of Harden and Hampton streets in Columbia. Residents who would like to speak at the hearing must sign up to speak prior to the beginning of the meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. April 6.

For information about the hearing or to receive an agenda and packet of information about the two properties, call Haynes at 576-2176. Residents can also contact Hair at [email protected]

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