Commercial zoning of Rimer Pond on agenda

BLYTHEWOOD – Developer Hugh A Palmer will be back before the Richland County Planning Commission on Oct. 2, to request commercial zoning on Rimer Pond Road. The request is for the 5.23-acre parcel at the intersection of Rimer Pond Road and Longtown Road West, across from Blythewood Middle School. Palmer is asking the County to rezone the property from Medium Residential zoning (RS-MD) to Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning.

Palmer has requested other commercial zoning for the property three times in the last three years, sometimes facing hundreds of residents in opposition, including Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross. In June of 2015, Palmer withdrew the request when he did not have the votes on Council. Later that year, in November, Council denied the request with a 5-5 tie vote. The third loss came Feb. 28, 2017, with Palmer receiving only one vote from Council.


Developer Hugh Palmer’s request for commercial zoning of a parcel at the intersection of Rimer Pond Road and Longtown West Road will be heard at the Richland County Planning Commission at 1 p.m., Oct. 2. Speakers for or against must sign up prior to the start of the meeting.

“I propose small retail development that would serve the needs of and be convenient to the surrounding area, to the people that already travel this area every day,” Palmer told Council at the February meeting.  “This area is changing, whether these folks in here like it or not.”

He said his request fell within the boundries of the County’s land use plan, had County staff’s approval and met the standards for the commercial zoning he was requesting.

“Those should be the questions that matter here tonight,” he said.

Neighbors disagreed.

“We enjoy the rural setting,” Christopher Henchy of Eagles Glen said. “No one on Rimer Pond Road wants commercial development on our road.” There is no other commercial zoning on the road.

Boyd Brown, a lobbyist speaking on Palmer’s behalf, held up a petition that he said was signed by 125 people in the community who supported the rezoning. However, none of the signers showed up at the meeting.

Palmer told Council his goal was to bring commercial conveniences to the neighborhood, but speaker after speaker repeated, “We don’t want it. We don’t need it.” Residents pointed out repeatedly during the public comment session that there was already adequate neighborhood commercial entities within a four-mile radius to serve their needs.

To make his point that commercial zoning would bring the criminal element to the Rimer Pond Road area, Trey Hair handed out to Council members neighborhood crime maps that showed only a handful of crimes committed in a one-mile radius of the proposed commercial site. A map of the same time frame and radius of a nearby commercial intersection was almost sold with symbols showing where crimes had been committed.

A neighborhood Facebook page, Keep it Rural, which was a hub for neighbors seeking and providing information during the three rezoning attempts, became active again on Tuesday within hours of the zoning request sign going up on the property.

NC zoning, according to the Richland County land use code, is intended to accommodate commercial and service uses oriented primarily to serving the needs of persons who live or work in nearby areas. This district is designed to be located within or adjacent to residential neighborhoods where large commercial uses are inappropriate, but where small neighborhood oriented businesses are useful and desired. But, according to the County’s desired development pattern, commercial development should be limited to Rural Activity Centers.

Permitted land uses are listed in the Richland County zoning ordinance for NC zoning, Other uses are permitted if the property owner receives permission from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The request will first go before the Planning Commission for a recommendation before going before County Council for three votes.

Palmer’s son, Patrick, who was either a member of or Chairman of the Richland County Planning Commission during each previous request, had served 12 years on the Commission before resigning earlier this year shortly after the third rezoning request for the property failed in February, 2017. Patrick recused himself each time the issue came before the Commission.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the rezoning at 1 p.m., Monday, Oct. 2.  Those who want to speak for or against the issue, must arrive a little early to sign up.

NOTICE: Location for the meeting has been changed from the Council Chambers in the County Building to the second floor of the Main Richland County library at 1431 Assembly Street in downtown Columbia. The change of venue is due to ongoing renovations at the County Building.


  1. Elizabeth Mull says

    What ever came of the meeting, that was scheduled by the Planning Commission, to look at re-doing the master plan for this area? It was scheduled because of the continued outcry from the residents “We don’t need it! We don’t want it!” It took place in the Spring? At Sandlapper Elementary if I remember correctly?

  2. Patrick Palmer says

    This is Patrick Palmer. If anyone would like to discuss the rezoning application and what is and is not allowed on the site with the new Neighborhood Commercial Zoning, please call me anytime on my cell phone at 803-556-3340. The zoning classification does not allow for a gas station nor convenience store and the building can only be 6,000 sf (which means it can not be a Family Dollar, Dollar General or Dollar Tree because there are NONE of these stores this small in Columbia). Again, I am trying to reach out to the community in any way I know how, so please call me if you have concerns or questions.

  3. Nikki Trawick says

    So Mr. Palmer, you have stated what the building is not supposed to be with the logic that there currently aren’t currently stores of that size under 6,000 sf, but you have not said what you plan to put in the space. Clearly the community does not want this here, so why are you pushing so hard? We have seen our community out here in the Northeast load up with apartments, smaller homes, and fast food. Many of us do not trust developers for good reason, and that is a sensitive location being next to a middle school.

  4. Anna Bowes Peake says

    I agree with Nikki Trawick. What is going into that space. One of those many strips with a nail salon, restaurant, dry cleaner and a chain restaurant like Subways or Little Ceasar’s. We have many of those already.

  5. Anna Rumsey says

    You don’t know what you’ ve got til its gone…put up a parking lot.

  6. Jay Keefer says

    People are moving to areas like the rural northeast corner of Richland County specifically to get away from sprawling commercial development. The LAST thing any of us want is a new commercial zone, particularly across the road from a middle school AND in the literal backyard of a new residential development.
    There is an ABUNDANCE of VACANT commercial property within 5 miles of this site; if there are small businesses ventures clamoring to move to this area, let’s encourage them to use what is already available and currently unused before wasting valuable land on new and unwanted commercial zones.

  7. David Poole says

    Anyone have the ability to research the past vote of the council and determine if the developers vote in. Collaboration with each other on these deals. They certainly have on this one. Their are three real estate developers on the board plus a real estate sales person who would obviously benefit personally from these properties being developed. And they would also benefit from each other voting on their deal when it comes up for consideration. Mr Palmer actually shot himself in the foot by becoming a member of the council because he either didn’t pay attention to or know about the recusal rule whereby if you are voting ok something that directly benefits you personally the you have to recuse himself from the vote. Otherwise this deal would have cruised through council the first time and not have resulted in a tie. Now knowing the rule he has quit the board hoping his successor will vote with the big dog deleopera left on the board. County council actually appoints head members of the board and therefore needs to be aware that we are watching them to see if they pad the vote for or against the people on this deal.
    I’m not saying they will or won’t but the “appearance of evil” should be avoided and they should appoint someone who is not. Real estate developer or real estate agent etc etc.

  8. Patrick palmer says

    Please call me anytime on my mobile to discuss. 803-556-3340

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