RCPC OKs industrial zoning in 29016

COLUMBIA – Richland County Planning Commissioners voted unanimously Monday afternoon to recommend that Richland County Council approve the rezoning of 483.55 acres of property adjacent to the Town of Blythewood – 456.01 of those acres would be zoned Light Industrial (LI) and 27.54 acres would be zoned General Commercial (GC). The two parcels lie in Richland County’s zoning jurisdiction and are bordered by Blythewood Road, I-77, Ashley Oaks subdivision and North Pointe Industrial Park.

While Town Administrator Brian Cook was in attendance and was asked several questions by the commissioners, no residents from the Blythewood community attended the meeting. The rezoning request will go before county council Sept. 24.

The two parcels are part of about 1,300 acres that the county has been seeking to rezone for a Blythewood Industrial Park. The remaining 864 acres of the proposed industrial park lie in the Town of Blythewood.

“I feel that this (LI) rezoning request will create a positive economic impact in the area.”

Heather Carnes
Richland County Planning Commissioner

While the county’s staff recommended disapproval of the rezoning Monday afternoon, County Zoning Administrator and Deputy Planning Director Geonard Price said that disapproval was based on the 2015 comprehensive plan which designates this area as neighborhood low density for future land use.

“Within this zoning [neighborhood low density] designation, the plan discourages industrial uses that will have significant community impacts, meaning noise, exhaust or heavy traffic. The uses allowed under this (LI) zoning district includes potential users which would be incompatible with how this general area is currently developed,” Price said.

Price pointed out that the Town of Blythewood has already rezoned (in 2015) about 678 acres of the 1,300 acres for Limited Industrial 2 (LI2) uses and is in the process of rezoning 163 more acres as LI2. Town council will have second reading on the 163 acres on Sept. 23.

“I point that out,” Price said, “because when you compare the location of that zoning request to what has been proposed, it may make this more compatible with the surrounding area.”

In 2015, the county persuaded the Town to rezone the 678 acres to LI2, a new zoning designation created by the Town for county officials for that property. County asked Blythewood for the rezoning at that time for an industry it said was coming to the property. After the rezoning, the industry never materialized. At a recent town meeting, county officials disclosed that the rezoning of the 678 acres was part of their five-year master plan for a Blythewood Industrial Park.

Jeff Rubble, director of the county’s economic development office, told commissioners that since March, his office has taken all the steps to get the zoning approved so the county could sell bonds to purchase the entire 1,300 acres. He said the bond closing is set for Nov. 1.

“The folks that would purchase the bonds told us they want to see the land zoned consistent with how it will be used. And that’s why we’re going through this rezoning process before we purchase the land.” Rubble said. “We want to build a tax base, create quality jobs. This is another big, big piece. This is the next two decades of growth. We want to reserve the front edge along Blythewood Road for mixed use development, hotels, high end restaurants, offices. We don’t want growth to happen to us. We want to do what we want to do proactively.” Rubble said. “This is a major step.”

Asked by Commissioner Heather Carnes what makes the area particularly appropriate for this industrial use, Tiffany Harrison, also with the Richland County Economic Development office, said it is prime for industrial grade use.

“You have full infrastructure out there. You have 15 million gallons a day of water, telecommunications infrastructure, access to the land from two interchanges,” Harrison said. ”The area is primed for growth and development. It’s the idea of setting aside property to bring in industry to create jobs, to invest in the community. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

“With I-77, we’ve had companies like Sony, IBM, United Technologies all come in and buy big tracts of land,” Rubble said. “The interchanges at Farrow Road, Clemson Road, Highway 21 and Blythewood Road have all been swallowed up by commercial and residential. Some of these sites were our best industrial sites but were bought by car dealerships, etc. It (industrial land) just keeps disappearing. If we don’t act, this, too, will get swallowed up.”

In making a motion for a recommendation of approval of the rezoning requests for the two parcels, Commissioner Carnes said her reason for going against the comp plan is that this is an opportunity to create a unique, well situated industrial park for the future.

“The comp plan just didn’t anticipate this opportunity. But now that it presents itself to us, I think we should encourage it,” Carnes said. “I feel that this rezoning request will create a positive economic impact in the area.”

Asked by Commissioner Wallace Brown if the county’s request is compatible with what the Town of Blythewood has in mind, Cook said it is.

“Yes, based on the town council tying it together with the covenants and restrictions and their overall idea behind this project. But we need these assurances in place with the covenants and restrictions,” Cook said.

Richland County Council will meet Sept. 24 in council chambers at 2020 Hampton Street in Columbia, to consider the planning commission’s recommendation.