Rimer Pond Road Faces 5th Challenge

BLYTHEWOOD (Nov. 19, 2015) – For the fifth time in seven months, residents of Rimer Pond Road, Long Creek Plantation and other nearby large-acre properties will try to convince Richland County to spare them from a rezoning request for commercial use on Rimer Pond Road that they say will change the character of their rural area. If passed by County Council, it would be the first commercial zoning on Rimer Pond Road. The target of the request is a 5.23- acre parcel at the intersection of Rimer Pond Road and Longtown Road East.

“If this rezoning on Rimer Pond Road is approved, it will open the flood gates for commercial zoning on the rest of the road,” resident Trey Hair told the County Planning Commission earlier this month.

The rezoning is being requested by Hugh Palmer whose family owns the property. Palmer is also the father of Patrick Palmer, the longtime Chairman of the Richland County Planning Commission, which is the recommending body to Council for zoning changes. But the Commission, which has twice heard the rezoning request, has not approved it either time. With Palmer recusing himself, as required by law, the first vote was 4-1 against recommending the rezoning and the second was 4-4, with no recommendation going forward to Council.

In a meeting with residents in the area, Patrick Palmer said he wanted to rezone the property out of a desire to bring commercial conveniences closer to the residents. He said he had in mind such businesses as a Papa John’s, a dry cleaners and a dance studio. But the commercial zoning his father is requesting would allow Palmers or any future owners to also locate more intense commercial uses on the property such as service stations and a grocery without seeking further approval.

Patrick Palmer, a commercial realtor with NAI Avant, had the property listed for $350,000 per acre last summer. But that sale is dependent on the property being zoned commercial. This week, Palmer notified The Voice that he no longer has a specific price on the property.

Hugh Palmer told the Planning Commission on Nov. 5 that he wanted the parcel rezoned for commercial use because a cell tower and an access road on the property made it unsuitable for residential use.

“This piece of property really has no residential value,” Hugh Palmer said. “No one will want to live there with these limitations.”

Rimer Pond resident Ken Queen said the Palmers, in 2008, asked for residential zoning on the 5.23-acre parcel, which then included 26 adjoining acres as well as the cell tower. The zoning was granted.

“They have now sold the 26 acres for residential use,” Queen said. “They asked for residential zoning on this (5.23-acre property) and now they need to live with it.”

Commissioner Heather Cairns agreed that while the cell tower may impact the parcel’s usefulness, “that does not mean the whole area should have commercial zoning put upon it because of that limitation.”

After failing to garner enough support from the Planning Commission and Council last summer for commercial zoning, the Palmers withdrew their application in September just hours before it was to be voted on by Council. Had Council voted against the application, it could not, by statute, have come back before them for another year.

The public hearing for the rezoning is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 24 in the County Council Chambers at Hampton and Harding streets in Columbia. It will be the first of three votes Council will take on the issue and the only one of the three meetings where the public is allowed to speak.

To speak for or against the rezoning, the public must arrive early to place their names on the sign-in sheet. To receive an agenda and a complete packet of information on the rezoning request by email, contact Suzie Haynes at [email protected] or at 803-576-2176.