PC could rezone dormant Red Gate property

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood Planning Commission elected to hold further discussions next month on an intensely debated item that would allow the town to rezone three separate areas that have sat dormant for the past decade.

Presently zoned as a Planned Development District, or PDD, the areas include two zones titled Red Gate Farms I and II, and a third area presently owned by Sharpe Properties. Because the areas have sat dormant for the past ten years, with no signs of development at any point according to town officials, town ordinances require the planning commission to open discussion on the matter and consider rezoning, if applicable, or charge the developer with violation of the zoning chapter.

Red Gate Farms I and II are presently owned by Arthur State Bank, with the original plans under the PDD to develop the areas into housing communities. Red Gate I includes 143 acres with a proposal to build 135 single family units and 23 acres of general commercial, while Red Gate II plans propose building 97 single family units and 300 multi-family units with 13 acres of general commercial.

One consideration for the commission has been to return the area’s zoning to Rural, as it was prior to the property being annexed into the city from Richland County in 2007.

Attorney for Arthur State Bank, Bob Fuller, addressed the commission Monday night and said the bank had been unable to sell the properties because of the lack of availability of utilities and infrastructure services to the property. Fuller said that now, on what he said could potentially be the eve of acquiring those services to the area, changing the area’s zoning would be a “terrible blow” to the property owner.

Almost four years ago, however, in January, 2015, the Town of Winnsboro issued a Water Capacity Availability and Willingness to Serve Letter to the Arthur State Bank for 40 acres of the 142.5 acre tract. That availability and willingness to serve was conditional upon Arthur State Bank selling the property to a ‘bona fide’ subdivision development entity (approved by the Town of Winnsboro) within 18 months of the issuance of the letter, and that any successors or assigns to the rights issued Arthur State Bank under the letter, enter into a mutually agreed to Water Utility Development and Service Agreement for the proposed subdivision within 24 months of the date of the Town of Winnsboro’s Water Capacity Availability and Willingness to Serve Letter. No sale transpired.

“We understand there are community interests, there are neighboring interests, and there is a town interest, but the owner also has a very important interest in this. Not that it is to be developed exactly how the PDD says, but that it be given the opportunity to follow the path of development that was initially designed for that property,” Fuller told the panel.

Fuller alleged changing the property’s zoning from the PDD to a “radically changed proposition” of Rural would prevent the bank from recouping any of its investment and was “too big of a pill to swallow”.

Planning commission chairman Donald Brock told Fuller that while the commission was respectful of the position the bank was in, it was not the commission’s responsibility to make the bank whole on an investment.

“It is my opinion a Rural designation would fit with the surrounding land area out there,” Brock stated.

According to Brock, even if the commission did make a motion to rezone the property to Rural, the bank would have the opportunity to reapply for a zoning change.

As a discussion-only item on the agenda, the commission was not required to take action on the matter Monday night and agreed to pick up the discussion to include all interested parties next month.

Before moving to other items, panel member Mark Cruise asked that the minutes of the meeting reflect that by holding the meeting with all parties next month that it is the commission’s intent to get the item off docket next month and resolved.

“We want to take care of all interested parties, but – so there is no sleight of hand here – you’re hearing the intent,” Cruise stated.