If you go
WHAT: Folly Road rezoning hearing
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Sons of Elijah Masonic Lodge at 1831 Folly Road
Lena Mae Gilliard worries about being forced out of the house where she has lived for more than four decades by commercial development that will make property taxes unaffordable.
She has resided all of her life in an enclave of homes on Folly Road, wedged between the bustle of the beach and the burgeoning growth of James Island.
"I want it to remain residential," she said.
Gilliard, 84, will get her wish if Charleston County Council gives final approval to "neighborhood preservation" zoning of a half-mile stretch of the four-lane highway from Grimball Road to Battery Island Drive. The zoning change would put strict limits on the types of businesses allowed in the area home to about 100 people.
Councilwoman Anna Johnson, who represents the district where a few dozen homes are located, thinks that the residents could lose out if the Council OKs the change. Johnson favors another type of zoning, "neighborhood commercial." Otherwise, she says, homeowners may not be able to sell for top dollar.
"It's about economics. Give the people the value of their property. Why do you want to take that away from them?" Johnson said.
However, she also said that some residents are confused about the issue because they think she is proposing that the mostly residential area be zoned for business. The affected properties are now zoned for "commercial transition" development, she said.
To help clear up misconceptions on the rezoning issue, and better gauge the will of the residents, the Council has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday night in the neighborhood. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. a the Sons of Elijah.
"I want to support what the residents want," said Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.
As things stand now, the current commercial transition zoning allows for big-box stores like Wal-Mart, assuming a developer were able to buy enough property. Neighborhood commercial zoning would restrict building size, but would continue to allow many of the same uses, such as restaurants, medical offices or small hotels.
Neighborhood preservation would allow mostly private residences.
The Council gave first and second reading approval recently to neighborhood preservation zoning for the affected stretch of Folly Road, said Dan Pennick, zoning and planning director.
But at its last meeting in April, Council did not move forward with a third and final vote that would have led to approval of neighborhood residential zoning. At that meeting, Johnson said there were several dozen people in the audience who opposed the rezoning.
Johnson said that she does not own property in the area that would be affected by the rezoning. She said the neighborhood preservation zoning could significantly reduce property values.
"There's not a lot of opportunities for African-Americans to have economic development and business opportunities," she said.
The change to neighborhood preservation zoning for the area would bring it in line with a planning document known as the Folly Road Overlay District which was created through a joint effort of the Town of James Island, the City of Folly Beach, the City of Charleston and Charleston County.
The county has jurisdiction over the situation involving the homes in the area where Gilliard lives because they are located in an unincorporated area.
Her grandson, Desmond Gilliard, 26, said the matter is complex, which has led to some misunderstandings.
"I have mixed feelings about it. I feel like it should stay residential but how long would that last?" he said.
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