Thursday, June 12, 2014
Historic Summerville residents are balking at a vision for the town that includes up to 880 new homes in the downtown area.
“That is a tidal wave of development. This is going to fundamentally change Summerville,” Peter Gorman of the East Historic District Civic Association told Town Council at its meeting Wednesday.
About 80 people attended the Town Council meeting to hear the Lawrence Group’s presentation of Summerville Vision Plan. Project manager Monica Holmes spoke for the North Carolina-based firm. The plan envisions the way a more “family-friendly” Summerville is going to look by the year 2040.
Town enhancements include improving pedestrian crossings on Dorchester Road, completing the Sawmill Branch Trail, retouching Hutchinson Square and elevating the town’s design standards.
However, the plan also includes building 880 new apartments, town houses and homes in the town’s historic district.
Town council opened the floor for public comments after the presentation. Summerville resident Birdie Crosby, who has lived off of E. Richardson Avenue for 25 years, immediately took the podium to say more housing will mean more traffic. He also felt downtown does not have enough space for infill.
“I missed out on everything about this plan,” he said. “You do not need any more traffic on East Richardson Avenue.”
Gorman asked council members to slow down with the Vision Plan. He would like to give the public more time to provide input – particularly on the idea of developing so much housing in the downtown district. Plus, Gorman said, taxes would probably have to be raised to fund the changes.
“That is an enormous impact on the small-town feel of Summerville,” he told council members.
Gorman said he foresees trees needing to be cut down to make room for the new housing, and new housing will only bring more traffic. He feels council members were probably not expecting to hear his statement.
“I had to make a point that it’s a tidal wave of development,” he said. “That’s at least 1,000 more cars in downtown. I’m not convinced that’s a fair trade.”
After the meeting Mayor Bill Collins said it is important for people to realize that this is a vision plan and many of the mentioned projects will not be taking place for a while.
“I don’t think people know much about it yet,” Collins said. “It’s a vision plan – it’s giving us an opportunity to look at Summerville 25 years from now.”
Collins said he, too, does not know how 880 homes are going to fit downtown. Among the projects included in the Vision Plan, he hopes to work on Hutchinson Square.
“I think that might get a facelift down the road,” he said.
A public hearing for the Vision Plan is scheduled for 4 p.m. June 16 at the Summerville Municipal Complex.