County Defers Zoning Debate

Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross and other Blythewood residents celebrate as they leave Richland County Council chambers after Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, center, got a rezoning request deferred. With Ross are some of the Blythewoodians who came to the meeting to speak out: Mike Hughes, Councilwoman Dickerson, Blythewood Town Councilman Eddie Baughman, Todd Little (behind Baughman), Joanna Weitzel and Davis Weitzel, 17. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross and other Blythewood residents celebrate as they leave Richland County Council chambers after Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, center, got a rezoning request deferred. With Ross are some of the Blythewoodians who came to the meeting to speak out: Mike Hughes, Councilwoman Dickerson, Blythewood Town Councilman Eddie Baughman, Todd Little (behind Baughman), Joanna Weitzel and Davis Weitzel, 17. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

COLUMBIA – When a large crowd of Blythewood residents showed up at a Richland County public hearing Tuesday evening to push back against a proposed rezoning that could land as many as 529 homes in the middle of an otherwise rural area just east of the Town of Blythewood, Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who represents the area, called on her fellow Council members to defer the hearing on the rezoning until she could meet with the neighbors, Town of Blythewood elected officials and the developer. The vote to defer was unanimous.

That meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. at The Manor in Blythewood.

Drapac Group, a national and international real estate developer, is requesting the zoning be changed from the current Rural (RU) zoning, which requires lots to be at least .75 acres in size, to Residential Estates (RS-E) zoning, which permits .40 acre lots. The development is proposed on 202 acres off Heins Road, near where it intersects with Langford Road.

On Oct. 2, Richland County’s Planning Commission voted 5-3 to recommend that Council approve the rezoning to RS-E. That recommendation backed the County staff’s conclusion that the rezoning request would be in compliance with the intentions of the Comprehensive Plan, as the RS-E zoning district provides a transition from rural to medium density development patterns.

The County staff further contended that the proposed rezoning would not be out of character with the existing surrounding development pattern in the area.

Commissioner Heather Cairns, disagreed.

“This is a part of the county that is predominantly rural with very large lots,” Cairns said, “so I don’t believe the Comp Plan supports this (property) becoming less than half-acre lots. I don’t support it.”

Neighbors speaking against the proposed development urged Commissioners to spare them from development they felt was so dense as to be out of character with the rural surroundings.

Resident Carol Ward, who lives across from the site, reminded planning commissioners that such a development could serve to justify other large developments in the area. She, as did other neighbors, spoke to the traffic congestion that they said already slows traffic to a standstill on Langford and Rimer Pond roads leading into Blythewood in the mornings and afternoons.

Commissioner Wallace Brown Sr. asked the County’s Deputy Planning Director/Zoning Administrator, Geonard Price, “Is the reason the developer wants to change the zoning from RU to RS-E is to be able to build more homes?”

Patrick Palmer, Chairman of the Commission, answered Brown, saying, “The staff says ‘yes.’”

Among the 30 or so Blythewood residents attending the County Council public hearing on Tuesday evening was Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross and Town Councilman Eddie Baughman.

“I think it was very important to be there to show our neighbors the support of the Town,” Ross told The Voice after the meeting. “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 he looks forward to facilitating a meeting between Councilwoman Dickerson, the affected residents and the developer.

For information about the meeting, contact Blythewood Town Hall at 803-754-0501. To obtain a copy of the packet containing detailed information about the rezoning request, call Suzie Haynes, Boards and Committees Coordinator in the County’s Planning and Development Services, at 803-576-2176 or email her at [email protected]

 

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