Residents concerned about zoning changes along Highway 78 corridor

Traffic along West 5th North Street in Summerville. 

In Summerville, large industrial businesses line a western end of Highway 78 while one part of the road touches the town’s Historic District. Alongside that road,nestled between industrial and business properties, there is a pocket of residential properties. These modest homes are within walking distance of an elementary school, two parks and the heart of downtown Summerville.

Eventually Highway 78 will widen to accommodate busy traffic and the few single-family residential properties that remain are expected to rezone, allowing more businesses to open alongside the major road.

In the meantime, a rezoning request raised questions about how to consider zoning of those residential properties located along Highway 78 in the Brownsville area.

Local resident Stan Glenn requested the town to rezone property located at 602 W. 5th North Street from R-1, Single Family Residential to B-1, Residential Business. The area, which is just shy of an acre, is in Council District 1. It sits along North Palmetto Street. Ultimately, the town council voted 5-2 to grant the request to rezone the parcel to B-1.

Area to the east of the property is currently zoned Residential Business while other properties to the West are currently zoned Single-Family Residential.

In the town’s proposed Unified Development Ordinance, that area is identified as a Neighborhood Mixed-Use District; which is intended to encourage the integration of commercial and residential land uses. 

Glenn said he is interested in selling to a professional business such as a law firm or a dentist office- some type of professional business that is compatible with the neighborhood.

“We want to maximize the potential of the property,” Glenn said.

Neighbors living on Palmetto Street spoke out against the rezoning request during a public hearing at the Summerville Planning Commission in May and again voiced concerns during the July 11 meeting of the Summerville Town Council.

Resident Jimmy Myers spoke in opposition to the request. He addressed the area encompassing Cedar and Maple Streets, the railroad tracks, and Highway 78, and specifically he brought up West 4th North and West 5th North Streets between North Pine and Bryan Streets.

“R-1 after R-1 zoned properties are falling by the wayside and their zoning status is being replaced with B-1 zoning,” Myers said. “Our town has a limited number of R-1 properties, which I believe should be protected in order to preserve the uniqueness and the character of Summerville.”

Summerville residents should consider “the total impact on a neighborhood or the greater good of our town,” when making decisions about rezoning the residential properties.

Rezoning a neighborhood property from R-1 to a business status may lead to increased traffic flow and noise level, he said.

K.C. Myers, who is married to Jimmy Myers, frequently walks the neighborhood, she said pedestrian foot traffic will likely increase now that the Rollins Edwards Community Center is open. She said everyone has a different take on the issue of whether to rezone properties in the Brownsville neighborhood, but most of them aren’t considering the larger impact- the loss of residential property.

“It’s like a beach that’s just eroding,” K.C. Myers said.

Councilman Walter Bailey said he kind of agreed with Jimmy Myers about the “slow encroachment that is eating away at R-1 properties in town.”

“It’s easy to justify changing zoning to something other than R-1 on property that’s at the border, on the periphery,” Bailey said. “But if we keep on doing that, sooner or later that border moves in toward the center of town and it just eats away at us from the edges.”

Councilwoman Christine Czarnik shared Bailey’s concerns and questioned where the town should draw a line.

Councilman Aaron Brown said the town’s comprehensive plan addresses the issue. The parcel in question is in his district, he made a motion to approve the rezoning request.

He said Highway 78 is becoming a major business corridor and eventually the road will widen.

“I’m aware that when you make these types of changes, it doesn’t make everybody happy but I have to look at the big picture,” Brown said.

After more discussion, council members voted 5-2 to grant the rezoning request.