Rimer Pond continues to fight Commercial

BLYTHEWOOD – Residents in the Rimer Pond Road area will be headed to Richland County Council Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. to once again fight commercial zoning on Rimer Pond Road.

Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning is requested by Columbia resident Hugh Palmer for 5.23 acres his family owns at the intersection of Rimer Pond Road and Longtown Road West, across from Blythewood Middle School. Palmer’s son, Patrick Palmer, a commercial realtor with NIA Avant, had the acreage listed for sale for $350 million about two years ago, but Palmer told The Voice that he has since taken the listing down.

Tuesday night will be the fourth time in as many years that the residents in LongCreek Plantation, Eagles Glenn and other neighborhoods along Rimer Pond Road have come to Council chambers to fight Palmer’s commercial zoning requests for that same property. But it will be the first time the residents will not be allowed to address Council members prior to Council’s vote. That scenario is due to a maneuver by their own Council representative, Gwendolyn Kennedy, who initiated moving the vote to a second public hearing where residents will not be allowed to address Council at all.  Residents this will make the uphill battle even tougher for them.

Council’s first vote was set to take place immediately after the residents addressed Council during a public hearing on Dec. 19. But after they had finished speaking, Kennedy, who is the only member of Council who voted against them last year on the commercial zoning issue, called for a deferral of the first vote to the Feb. 27 public hearing. Had she made her motion to defer prior to the residents addressing Council, they would have been allowed to speak at the Feb. 27 public hearing.

“Not being able to address Council before they vote, and remind them why we do not want commercial zoning in our area, puts us at a huge disadvantage,” Rimer Pond Road resident Trey Hair said. “The maneuver blindsided us and is to Palmer’s advantage. Even if we had seen it coming, there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. When we have been able to talk to Council members before a vote and explain why we don’t want commercial zoning on our road, why it would soon eat away our residential community, they have seen us through. Since we won’t have that chance this time, it’s scary,” Hair said.

“We’ll just hope the better angels and Council look out for us once again,” another resident on the road, Michael Watts, said.

At issue is that there is no commercial zoning on Rimer Pond Road which is the gateway to several neighborhoods including LongCreek Plantation, Eagles Glen and Coopers Pond. Besides the neighborhoods, Rimer Pond Road is lined with family farms, churches and large acre residential properties.

While Hugh Palmer has hired a lobbyist to sway council members and tried to convince Council and residents that the Neighborhood Commercial (NC) businesses planned for the site will be neighborhood friendly, residents say the reality is that once the commercial zoning is in place, the property owner, whoever that turns out to be, is free to bring the highest NC use allowed by the zoning, including a convenience store with gas pumps.

Residents also cite other corner lot owners in the area who have let it be known that once a commercial zoning is approved on the road, they will be waiting in line to ask for commercial zoning as well.

At a community meeting in LongCreek Plantation last week concerning the proposed commercial zoning, residents quoted Richland County Sheriff’s Office statistics about how crime follows commercial zoning uses and how crime increases incidents that involve law enforcement at schools when they are next to or across from commercial entities.

While residents will not be allowed to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting, some Council members have said they have been inundated with emails from the community. And residents say they also plan to make their presence known Tuesday night by wearing red. Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross, Councilman Eddie Baughman and others in the community who do not live on the road say they plan to attend Tuesday night’s meeting.

“We want them to at least know we are there,” said longtime Rimer Pond Road resident Mary Lee. “Hopefully they will see us, remember our cause and vote for us.”

The commercial zoning request will come before County Council on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in the county building at Harden and Hampton streets. Call 576-2172 for a meeting packet.