In North Charleston's Deer Park neighborhood, homeowners are continuing their fight to keep developers from turning residential properties there into businesses.
The neighborhood borders busy University Boulevard (Highway 78), which is lined with businesses. Some residents fear a domino effect as businesses attempt to set up shop along residential streets near the boulevard.
The latest plan North Charleston has been asked to consider would rezone a single-family lot on Shadow Lane so that a medical office building could be constructed. It is the third proposal in less than a year aimed at putting a business on a residential property at the edge of Deer Park.
The three plans - a gas station, a parking lot and the medical office building - involve adjacent residential streets - Dantzler Drive, Shadow Lane and Fernwood Drive. Each street connects to University Boulevard, and each has businesses located at the University Boulevard end of the street.
Therein lies the conflict.
Would-be developers, and in some cases the city's planning and zoning staff, say the residential properties should be rezoned for business use because they are next door to businesses already. Developer Richard Pratt raised that issue with the Planning Commission this month while seeking a zoning change to allow the proposed medical offices on Shadow Lane.
"The property is between institutional (uses), although it is zoned residential," he said. "On all sides of us, the uses are non-residential."
Neighborhood residents argue that the city agreed years ago to limit commercial intrusion into the community, and drew a line on the map that should not be crossed. The vacant property where the medical offices are proposed is near two churches, a CVS pharmacy and a Hampton Inn hotel - but it's also right behind a house on neighboring Fernwood Drive, where Julia Towles has lived since 1957.
"You'll lower the value of my house if you pull businesses down Shadow behind me," Towles told the Planning Commission.
She said the city previously rejected a half-dozen or more requests to rezone the same property, and should reject the latest one as well.
Some existing businesses between the University Boulevard ends of Fernwood Drive and Shadow Lane were established after the city approved zoning changes in 1994, according to neighborhood president Beth Evans.
"I registered my objections to that up-zoning at the time, and have seen in the years since how all that business so deep in our neighborhood has stressed residents with increased noise and traffic," she said. "I want such up-zoning never to happen again."
And neighborhood residents are particularly opposed to the idea of crossing the "demarcation line" between the residential and commercial areas.
"Once the city breaks through the demarcation line between business zoning and house zoning, other similar requests will be hard to deny," Evans said in a recent email.
One of the earlier proposals, to rezone a residential property on Fernwood Drive and up-zone an adjacent University Boulevard property for construction of a Sunoco gas station, was twice withdrawn from City Council agendas after council members indicated that a majority would vote it down. The plan is expected to come back for further review, and Deer Park residents in January received phone calls asking their opinions about the zoning.
The other proposal, for a parking lot on Dantzler Drive to support a medical office, was unanimously rejected by City Council in September.
The latest controversial zoning request, for the medical office on Shadow Lane, goes to City Council on April 10. The Planning Commission recommended that the zoning change be denied.
"It would be an injustice to the neighborhood to change it," commissioner Joseph McIntyre said.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552
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