Community Meets on Heins Road Zoning

BLYTHEWOOD – A proposed 500+ housing development in Blythewood along Heins Road will be the topic of conversation this week when Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson brings together three groups: Blythewood residents who object to the development being located across the street from their rural properties, members of the Richland County Planning staff who are recommending the rural Heins Road location for the mega development and the developer who is seeking to bring the development to fruition.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Oct., 1 at The Manor in Blythewood and is being hosted by Mayor J. Michael Ross and Councilman Eddie Baughman.

At issue is a request by the developer, Drapac Group, represented by attorney Robert Fuller, to rezone 202 acres on Heins Road from Rural (RU) zoning to Residential Estate (RS-E) zoning, which would permit up to 529 homes, each built on lots of less than half an acre. All the surrounding property, according to a report by the Richland County Planning & Development Services Department, is zoned RU, much of it home to horses and other livestock. RU zoned districts are not permitted to have lot sizes less than three-quarters of an acre. Without the zoning change, Drapac could only build 267 Homes on the 202 acres.

When the issue came before the County Planning Commission on Sept. 8, residents from the Heins Road area pleaded with Commissioners to recommend leaving the zoning RU.

The Richland County Deputy Planning Director/Zoning Administrator Geonard Price and his staff, however, recommended the Commission approve the RS-E zoning, saying the development would not be out of character with the existing surrounding development pattern in the area. They based their recommendation on the County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, subtitled ‘Looking Forward to Future Growth,’ in which the Richland County Council determined in 2009 that it would be appropriate for the rural Heins Road area to have low density residential as the primary use. Neighbors in the area told The Voice they were not aware of such a plan for their area.

“These areas serve as a transition between rural and medium-density areas,” according to the staff’s report, “and are opportunities for low density traditional neighborhood development.”

The Planning Staff also determined that the proposed development would present no traffic problems for the area, pointing out in its report to the Commission that traffic information indicated only 600 average daily trips on Heins Road, a two-lane undivided road. But Heins Road residents told the Commission that the traffic bottle-necks on Langford Road as it enters Blythewood, causing long delays.

Resident Carol Ward told Commissioners, “We already have to alter our route to work and take all the back roads to be able to get through the traffic.”

Ross, also pointed to traffic as a problem.

“This development worries us from the amount of traffic that could be channeled onto Langford Road, then onto Blythewood Road into downtown Blythewood. We already have delays and congestion in the mornings and evenings on these roads,” Ross said.

The Commission, voting 6-3, recommended the rezoning to County Council, but when a number of Blythewood residents attended a public hearing earlier this month at Richland County Council on the issue, Dickerson, the area’s Council representative, called for a deferral of the rezoning request until she had time to meet with residents and the developer.

In an email to Ross, Dickerson said, “it is my unwavering desire to maintain the rural character of that community.”


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