In North Charleston, mixed use apparently means townhomes, an event center and a round-the-clock cement and asphalt plant all within a few hundred yards of each other.
The North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center is surrounded by hotels and fast-food restaurants with easy access to interstates 526 and 26. But the residents of the Lake Palmetto townhomes and the adjacent Banks Construction off West Montague Avenue have been uneasy neighbors for the past 10 years.
"That was a mistake even to allow that (townhome project) to be built," said North Charleston City Councilwoman Dorothy Williams, whose district includes the property.
Acknowledging it was a mistake doesn't mean the city can undo it, however, since the industrial use predates the townhomes.
"It's not like anybody has allowed anything to encroach on them," Williams said. "People who moved there knew what was going on.
"The city has taken responsibility, but we can't tell those businesses not to make noise and limit their hours."
The city has promised to build a sound wall to shield the townhomes from the noise of the cement plant, but residents say that's only part of the problem, which they expect to get worse if Banks' request for a heavy industrial rezoning for its 35 acres is approved.
"We'd definitely like to see something done just to cut down on the dust and noise," said Carla Beem, who, along with her husband, Tim, rents a townhome across the lake from Banks.
The Beems and other townhome residents don't dispute that owners and residents should have known about the cement plant before they moved in. But the Beems and their neighbors say Banks has been allowed to ramp up its operation in recent years, creating what at times resembles a dust storm coming across the lake directly at them.
"It wasn't as bad when we moved in three years ago," said Tim Beem. "It was like all of a sudden there were trucks going in all night long."
Chris Dean, who moved to Lake Palmetto in 2005 after selling her home in Mount Pleasant echoed contention that Banks has gotten larger and more difficult to live near.
"It (Banks) was nothing like it is today," she said. "When I moved here it was just a 20- to 25-foot mound of small rock gravel. It didn't concern me at all.
"The city should not have allowed this to grow in that way. It's got to stop."
Instead of granting Banks' rezoning or some other change in land use, Dean said the city should put a cap on industrial growth next to the townhomes and require a 75-foot-wide buffer of trees between the plant and the community.
The situation came to a head recently when Banks proposed heavy industrial zoning of 35 acres where its operations are currently allowed as a "legal non-conforming use," according to documents filed with the city Department of Planning and Management.
"While not opposed to Banks continuing its historical usage within reasonable parameters, the Home Owners Association strongly opposed the M-2 (heavy industrial) rezoning because it would cause both immediate and lasting damage and uncertainty to the community," attorney Ross Appel wrote in a July 8 letter to the city Planning Commission, which is scheduled to consider the issue during its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
"Opening the door to a wide range of heavy industrial uses next to a neighborhood with hundreds of residents obviously makes poor planning sense and only invites future land use conflicts," Appel said in the letter.
In response to those concerns, Banks proposed a "planned development district" that will allow existing operations to continue but impose more restrictions on new development if the property is zoned for heavy industry.
Under the planned development district, industry such as petroleum refineries, fertilizer processing and paper manufacturing would be banned. So would dance halls, taverns or clubs where alcohol is served and sexually-oriented businesses.
Appel says in his letter to the Planning Commission that the homeowners remain concerned about the situation despite Banks' new proposal for a planned development district.
The homeowners worry about "significant noise, dust and particulates, vibrations and other externalities associated with Banks' current heavy industrial operations and experienced by the community on a daily basis."
In addition, the residents have received no details from the city about the proposed sound wall or when it will be built, he said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711
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