Blythewood ‘makes right’ over wrong business license

BLYTHEWOOD – After town hall mistakenly issued a business license for a business located on property it was not zoned for, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson sought to stem the zoning/business license conundrum by allowing the business to continue operating for the duration of its five-month lease.

“On June 4, 2021 the Town of Blythewood made an error by issuing a business license to Paradise Ice at a location where the use was not permitted,” Williamson explained in an email to The Voice. “Because of this error, the Town informed the business owner that he would only be permitted to remain operating at this location until Sept. 30, 2021. “

According to former S. C. Municipal Association Howard Duvall – now retired and serving his second term on Columbia City Council – that permission may solve the problem temporarily, but could lead to zoning request issues on the property in the future.

There is no provision for the Town to allow a business to operate on a property that is not zoned for that business use. 

In 2016, Pelican Sno-Balls’ owner had his eye on a different building on the same property (10711 Wilson Boulevard) and requested a commercial up-zoning classification to Multi-Neigh borhood Commercial (MC) zoning that would have allowed the Pelican shop to operate on the property. That request was subsequently denied by town council.

What has become a zoning conundrum for the Town, began in early May when Tripp Mixon was issued a business license for his shaved ice business located in a roadside stand on the 10711 Wilson Boulevard property. That property is zoned Multi-Neighborhood Office Commercial (MO), a zoning classification that does not accommodate a roadside stand, according to town officials.

When Mixon opened the stand last week, a code enforcement official from the Town shut the business down, telling Mixon he was operating a business use not permitted on that property.

Mixon’s aunt, Susan Fredrick told The Voice that after being issued a business license by the town Mixon had gone to some expense to ready the building for operation, plus he had signed a five-month lease through Sept. 30, 2021 and paid a deposit on the building.

Fairfield County faced a similar predicament two years ago when the county issued a woman a permit for her mobile home that was larger than the land it was permitted to sit on. The county ended up spending over $60,000 to pay for the woman’s living expenses and relocate her mobile home to land donated by the county.

Fredrick said the Town first offered to pay for a month’s rent as compensation for closing the business.

On June 27, however, Williamson sent Mixon an email stating that the Town would permit him to operate Paradise Ice until the lease was up on Sept. 30, and after that, Mixon could no longer operate the business on the premises.

“Beyond this date, this use will not be permitted at this location,” Williamson wrote.  “To address this mistake moving forward, every new business in the Town will be required to complete a zoning compliance permit signed by the zoning technician prior to a business license being issued.”

According to a Blythewood town official, there are a few zoning classifications that allow the operation of a roadside stand, but MO is not one of them.

Duvall advised that temporary rezoning of a property is not provided under the Comprehensive Planning Act.

The question is whether permission to temporarily operate a more intense commercial use of the property might set prescedent for up-zoning the property’s commercial zoning designation in the future.

Pelican Sno-Balls’ 2016 request to up-zone the MO zoned property at 10711 Wilson Boulevard to MC zoning was denied by council in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

MC is one of several commercial zoning classifications that will accommodate a shaved ice stand but it will allow a myriad of other retail business uses as well, including convenience stores, beer and wine sales, apartment buildings and, under certain conditions, service stations. The property, which is surrounded by mostly Rural (RU) zoning, is currently zoned for office use.

Members of the community in the area near the property turned out to protest the 2016 requested up-zoning.

 “That type of zoning is not something we want to see in our neighborhood,” David Widner of Shoal Creek Road off Rimer Pond Road said at that council meeting.

“We are opposed to this up-zoning near our road because it will progress and the up-zoning will rapidly be out of your hands,” Michael Watts told Council members.

Other residents, including those from Dawson’s Creek neighborhood which is located behind the Wilson Boulevard property, voiced similar opinions.

Councilman Eddie Baughman pointed out that MC zoning allows apartment buildings.

“With MC zoning, we could be allowing an apartment building to go up,” he said.

Then-Councilman Tom Utroska agreed.

“When you change the zoning,” Utroska said, “you can’t just change it right back.”

 “How much and where do we want that growth to go and what do we want it to look like is the real question,” Councilman Larry Griffin asked.

“I think you’ve hit it right on the head,” Mayor J. Michael Ross said to Griffin. “As I look at it, it’s not, ‘Do we want a Pelican Sno-Balls store?’ It’s a zoning map and zoning district classification that would allow this type of business, but it would also allow a lot of others. So are we ready to do that down that close to Rimer Pond Road? So, when I cast my vote, it’s not against Pelican Sno-Balls, but are we ready to start what might be an entire commercial development down on Highway 21 right in front of the entrance to Rimer Pond Road?”

“We have regulations as to what we want (the town) to look like,” Ross added.

Turning to Griffin, Ross said, “I think you said exactly what we are voting on – whether or not we will open this up to allow this type of business or other businesses like this business in that area.”

On a verbal roll call, Council members unanimously rejected Pelican’s request for MC zoning for the property at 10711 Wilson Boulevard.

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