200-acre rezoning request could reshape North Charleston residential area
Anthony Manuel has lived in the Trailwood Mobile Home Park for 13 years and has heard talk that some big development may be in the works, one that would force him and 420 other families to leave.
“We’re all confused right now,” he said Thursday on the covered porch outside his mobile home. “All of us are talking, but there are so many people giving us such different information.”
On Monday, the North Charleston Planning Commission will consider one of the more ambitious rezoning requests in the city’s recent history — a request to convert more than 200 acres from mostly residential uses to light industrial.
If approved, the most immediate effect could be felt in Trailwood, where most families rent space for their mobile homes on a month-to-month basis.
Norman Lux, a retired carpenter, has made his home in Trailwood with his wife for 15 years and is not looking forward to having to move.
Moving can cost $2,000 or more, and Lux and others might have a hard time finding a similar place so centrally located. “Maintenance-wise, this is one of the best parks I’ve seen in my life,” he said. “We don’t want to move if we don’t have to.”
Palmetto Land & Sea, an investment group with a California address, is seeking the zoning change in hopes of buying the properties and matching them with an industry or other developer, said Bill Witting, who is working with the group.
Witting said the group is not working on behalf of Boeing or any other prospective client at this point. He said the zoning change is needed to stir interest in the site.
“We discovered a few months ago we actually missed some opportunities because we didn’t have the zoning,” he said. “We’re in a kind of a Field of Dreams sort of thing: if you build it, they will come. But if you don’t have the field, they won’t come.”
Witting said Trailwood residents have had warning for years that the park might be converted into a different use. A proposal to realign Michaux Parkway two years ago would claim some home sites, and four years ago, the city’s comprehensive zoning plan called for the area to be redeveloped.
However, that plan does not call for Trailwood to become light industrial, North Charleston Planning Director Bill Gore said.
If North Charleston approves the zoning change, it’s unclear when residents would be asked to move. Witting said they likely would be given at least three months notice, even though they rent month to month.
The rezoning is being eyed warily by those living next to Trailwood, too.
Merle Morton and her husband Robert have lived in their ranch home off Marilyn Drive for more than 40 years, but the Glyn Terrace residents fear it just won’t be the same place if 200 neighboring acres are rezoned to light industrial.
“We’ve invested a lot in this community,” she said, “and I hate to see them surround us with undesirable things.”
Former City Councilman Steve Ayer said if Boeing were involved, then he might be more enthusiastic.
“The suggestion was it (the rezoning) would bring jobs and money to the area. Well, jobs and money are good, but you don’t upset the community just for that,” he said. “You have to consider the people who live next to whatever is going to go there.”
City Councilman Ed Astle, who represents the Trailwood neighborhood, said it has about 721 sites for mobile homes, and more than 400 are currently occupied.
He said he would like information about what Palmetto Land & Sea will do for those residents if they have to move. “I want to see it in writing,” he said. Some homes may be too old and fragile to withstand a road trip to another park.
Mayor Keith Summey said Thursday he is not supportive of the change because there is not a specific project at this point.
“If we had someone who would come to us and say, ‘This is our plan,’ that’s something I could hang my hat on,” he said. “Until we have a client, we don’t know if it’s something we want to see in the city.”
Summey said he doesn’t want to force anyone to move — or to adjust to living close to an industry — without a clear understanding of the benefits and how any ill effects will be lessened.
That sounds good to D’Onna Corley, a junior at Stall High School and a resident of Trailwood. She said she wouldn’t look forward to moving and changing schools for her senior year
“I’ve been in North Charleston a long time,” she said.
David Cox, who lives at the opposite end of the park with his son and his girlfriend, agreed. “A lot of people have been here 20 years,” he said. “Some of these people would probably cry if they had to move.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.