Rezoning recommended for former Red Gate property

BLYTHEWOOD- After hearing from the property owner and town staff, the Blythewood Planning Commission unanimously approved a recommendation Monday for rezoning of the former Red Gate property near downtown Blythewood.

Their recommendation for the 140-acre site, which sits along Blythewood Rd., between Muller and Syrup Mill roads, is to rezone approximately 60 acres of road frontage property to town center, a designation that allows for a variety of commercial uses but with a lot of restrictions. The remainder would be zoned rural, which is reflective of its current use.

If approved by the Blythewood Town Council, the rezoning could effectively create a separate town center on the west side of Interstate 77 from the current town center, and increase the total area with the Town Center zoning designation in Blythewood by approximately 13 percent.

“That’s progress driven by population and many, many other factors,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Malcolm Gordge who is a longtime proponent of commercial zoning in both the town center and in the rural areas outside the town.

“Don’t forget when the town first started it was only one-quarter of a square mile, so it’s increased many, many, many times, and I think the town council understands and knows that you can’t stop growth. I think this is perfectly in line with their expectations, so long as it’s managed and controlled.”

The zoning of the property in question has an interesting history. Back in 2007, when it was still part of Richland County, the site was given a planned development designation, which was created for mixed-use development projects.

An important aspect of planned development zoning is that it’s tied to a specific development plan, and in this case the plan proposed by a developer was to build more than 500 homes, a mixture of single-family and multi-family, along with approximately 36 acres of commercial development.

Several years later, another developer proposed a similar project. But, like the first one, it was never developed.

While the current zoning ordinance requires the town to rezone such property if an approved development doesn’t take place within two years, that process was not formally initiated until last fall.

That process began in the midst of a residential development boom in Blythewood that has left many residents concerned about the fast pace of growth and the inability of current infrastructure to support it.

Coincidentally, the property changed hands around the same time, leading to some controversy about the proposed rezoning of the property to D-1, a general zoning designation for large parcels on the fringe of urban growth where the character of development has not yet been determined.

The planning commission was then instructed to meet with the property owner to come up with a rezoning plan that eliminated the planned development district but gave the property a zoning designation which the new owner could support, while also being consistent with town planning documents.

Monday night’s recommendation by the planning commission was the result of this process.

At Monday’s meeting, members of the Dinkins family, who now own the land, were asked to share their thoughts about its potential future development.

Marshall Dinkins, who has spoken previously for the family during the process, said there is no specific development plan in the works. Understanding what the zoning will be and what type of development the town will allow and consider favorable, he said, will play a role in what sort of plans are considered going forward.

“There have not been any plans made at all on development,” he said. “We’re riding four-wheelers on it. That’s all we’re doing right this second.”

His father, Byron Dinkins, said most likely his children will oversee the land’s development – but his vision for the property would include a site for something that benefits the whole community, such as a new medical center.

“Right now, with everything going on,” he said, “houses and apartments and all that are totally out.”

Blythewood Planning Commission Chairman Rich Mckenrick said that, all things considered, the planning commission’s recommended zoning is a good resolution to the issue.

“[If this is approved by the town council] you would not and could not build 232 single-family homes, and you could not build 300 apartments. This zoning would prohibit that,” Mckenrick said.

“I really don’t think any developer could’ve gone in there now and tried to act on the planned development without some kind of significant pushback from the town and probably some kind of litigation for how long that development [plan] sat there,” he said.

“In the end, is it perfect? I don’t think anything is ever perfect, but I think it’s a step in the right direction if you’re going to curb single-family development along the Blythewood Road corridor, and you put a lot of responsibility back on the town with that town center development [zoning].”

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