RC Council to hear rezoning request on Rimer Pond Road Thursday, Dec. 17

To have input into the proposed rezoning of 15.14 acres for a housing development on Rimer Pond Road, emails must be received by Richland County Council by end of day, Wednesday, Dec. 16. Send emails to [email protected]

COLUMBIA – Richland County Council will hold a zoning public hearing on Thursday night, Dec. 17, to hear what residents who live and travel along Rimer Pond Road have to say about a rezoning request that will bring more traffic to the already congested road.

At issue for residents who live and travel along the road is that Richland County Council continues to approve more housing developments along the road without addressing the increased traffic congestion these neighborhoods bring to the road.

The latest rezoning-for-housing request on Rimer Pond Road was made earlier this month by developer Kevin Steelman who wants to rezone 15.14 acres for approximately 40 new homes. Stillman has already developed several neighborhoods with hundreds of homes to the Kelly Mill Road extension of Rimer Pond Road. Those neighborhoods empty on to Rimer Pond Road.

The traffic from Steelman’s newly proposed neighborhood will also exit onto Rimer Pond Road along with vehicles from approximately 500 homes that are currently being built by Great Southern Homes behind Steelman’s 15.14 acres. Beside Steelman’s proposed neighborhood is Coopers Pond which already sends traffic onto Rimer Pond Road from more than 100 homes. These three neighborhoods are within a quarter mile of Highway 21 where, during drive times, traffic can back up a mile or more down Rimer Pond Road. A little further down the road, vehicles from another 150 or so homes in Eagles Glen empty onto Rimer Pond Road. Lake Carolina homes and a myriad of neighborhoods along Hardscrabble also travel down Rimer Pond Road to get to Highway 21 during high traffic hours. And a number of other new neighborhoods under construction will also empty onto the road.

Public Restricted

With restrictions on the public’s access to rezoning meetings during the pandemic, residents say they have little meaningful input to the county’s rezoning decisions that affect traffic on the road, leaving few if any barriers to the council’s passage of developers’ requests for rezoning.

Earlier this month, when Steelman’s rezoning request went before the Richland County Planning Commission, the public was not allowed access to the meeting in person, nor were they able to view it virtually due to what a county spokesperson said were technical difficulties. Instead of postposing the vote until the public could have visual access to the meeting, the commission proceeded to vote 9-0 to recommend that county council approve the developer’s request.

Media attorney Jay Bender termed the meeting illegal and said a ‘Do-Over’ was warranted.

“While streaming did not allow for public viewing, the meeting was recorded and all efforts will be made to have the audio of the meeting…placed on the county’s YouTube channel,” Geonard Price, Division Manager/Zoning Administrator, said following the meeting in a texted comment to The Voice via Stephen Gilchrist, chairman of the planning commission.

More than a week after the meeting, however, neither video nor audio of the meeting has been posted.

While citizens were allowed to express their opinions about the rezoning in emails or letters to the planning commission, many expressed that they were not aware of the rezoning and therefore didn’t know to send an email.

County officials said they posted signs and sent letters of notification about the rezoning to property owners adjacent to the proposed new housing development, However, the signs along Rimer Pond Road were posted facing the roadway and not easily visible to passing traffic. After a photo (below) was sent to the county showing motorists’ view of the signs, Price ordered the signs re-staked to be perpendicular to the road so that they could be easily seen by passing traffic.

To view the county council zoom meeting which is scheduled for 7 p.m., on Thursday, Dec. 17, go to: http://richlandcountysc.gov/Government/County-Council