Blythewood Council votes 4-1 against rezoning U-Haul property

BLYTHEWOOD – After a Facebook campaign by some town leaders encouraging community members to speak out about the rezoning of an 18-acre property on Community Road, Town Council voted 4-1 against the rezoning request with Councilman Donald Brock voting for.

U-Haul requested the rezoning of the property located in the 800 block of Community Road (TMS# 15100-0402) from Town Center District (TC) to Community Commercial District (CC). The property is located south of Blythewood Road and west of I-77, across Blythewood Road from the Food Lion shopping center.

Community Commercial zoning is the Town’s highest use commercial zoning district intended to provide a mix of heavy-intensity office, civic, retail and residential uses.

Compared to the Town Center District, the Community Commercial District allows the largest and most intense commercial uses.

During a public hearing prior to the first reading Monday night, Kevin Anderson, the Marketing Company President of U-Haul SC, said the company planned to build a three-story, state-of-the-art self-storage facility that would offer 60,000 square feet of climate-controlled rentable spaces as well as truck, trailer and U-box rentals.

Anderson said the storage is not allowed under its current Town Center District zoning. A plat of a preliminary site plan shows the storage units proposed on the opposite end of the property from Blythewood Road.

He said the storage units would feature climate controlled interiors, controlled access and that the 18.5 acre property would remain under the umbrella of the Town’s Architectural Overlay District.

A driving force behind the opposition to the rezoning appeared to be its effect on the rodeo. It was noted in the council’s agenda packet that the rodeo is held on the U-Haul property.

“The rodeo has zero to do with this request,” Councilman Rich McKenrick said at one point.

“I’m thankful you said that because during the [planning commission] meeting, all I heard about was the rodeo, pretty much from the start of the meeting to the end – how thankful everyone was for the rodeo,” Jason Hardin, district vice president for U-Haul said. “It felt like, coming from the community, it’s all everyone cared about was the rodeo.”

Anderson told council that U-Haul has allowed the rodeo to use the end of the property next to Blythewood Road free of charge for the past seven years. The Town government awards $50,000 each year to support two rodeo performances – one in the fall and one in the spring. The rodeo is a business owned by Buck and Kristi Coggins.

Cobblestone Park residents also expressed opposition to the storage units, saying they feared it would increase traffic and bring unsightly development to the area. Anderson said the storage units would not increase traffic, that ingress and egress for the storage property would be on Community Road, not Blythewood Road.

The property is currently zoned for a number of commercial uses that include fast food restaurants and, conditionally, service stations with gas pumps.

Hardin cited a traffic study from two weeks earlier that fast food restaurants see an average of 3,161 trips per week; service stations, 1,200 trips per week; casual dining, 1,075 trips per week; hotels, 905 trips per week; and U-Haul facilities, 31 trips per week.

Three of the four people who spoke Monday night in opposition to the rezoning were Cobblestone residents. The fourth owns a storage unit on Farrow Road.

Four people spoke in support of the rezoning – Anderson, Harden, Johnny Jenkins (another U-Haul employee) and Bailey.

The planning commission voted 6-0 last month against recommending the property for rezoning. Four of the six commissioners as well as one who was absent are also Cobblestone residents.

The Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Director Phil Frye, also weighed in against U-Haul’s rezoning during the Planning Commission meeting, saying the majority of businesses in the Town are opposed to the rezoning. Fry was asked Monday night exactly how many businesses opposed the rezoning and the names of those businesses.

“I don’t think I should disclose that information,” Frye said.

Councilman Eddie Baughman and McKenrick suggested U-Haul should consider sub-dividing the property and request rezoning only for the south end of the property where it planned to build the storage units.

“That’s down the road,” Hardin said.

Speaker George Logan of Cobblestone told council that while he was proud of the planning commission’s unanimous vote to not recommend the rezoning to town council, he was disappointed that council would even meet to consider the rezoning.

Councilman Donald Brock explained that S.C. law requires that council hold a public hearing on the issue and allow the public to speak out about it.

Cobblestone resident Bethany Parler said she was concerned that the drivers of the U-Haul trucks would be inexperienced drivers or that the U-Haul trucks would drive south on Community Road toward Westwood High School where there would be inexperience drivers.

Anderson said the Town has already set precedent for rezoning a TC zoned property to CC zoning.

“A property at 500 Main Street was rezoned from TC to CC zoning on Nov. 1, 2021,” Anderson said.

McKenrick said he did not feel that was a good comparison because the property was zoned General Commercial (GC) when it was purchased and was later rezoned by the Town to TC. He said the owner then wanted it changed to CC and it was rezoned with a unanimous vote.

After the meeting, Anderson told The Voice that he appreciated Councilman Brock’s support of the growth of the business community in the town.

“I would also like to thank former Mayor Keith Bailey for his words of support as well,” Anderson said.

Anderson also said he will be looking into the current TC zoning designation to see what options are open to U-Haul on the property. He said he has no plans to sell the property now or in the future.

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