Dead firefighter's mother questions allowing 'junkyard' next to Sofa Super Store memorial

Ann Mulkey, whose son was among the nine Charleston firefighters who died in the Sofa Superstore fire in 2007, is upset that a towing company is moving next to the memorial site on Savannah Highway.

Ann Mulkey had hoped the former site of the Sofa Super Store in West Ashley soon would have trees and fountains and be a more appropriate memorial to her son and eight other firefighters who died in a massive fire there in 2007.

But instead of getting better, she's afraid things will get worse when Turky's Towing opens its impound lot and used car sales operation next door.

"It will end up being a junk yard," she said of the towing business, which fronts on Savannah Highway, and runs along the memorial site to Pebble Road.

The memorial site, which sits on the often-congested Savannah Highway, now has basic landscaping, some benches and markers for the nine firefighters. But it has few trees to protect visitors from the blazing sun, said Mulkey, who would like to come to the site to remember her son, Capt. Louis Mulkey.

"This is where they died and where their souls went to heaven," Mulkey said. "I would like to come here and just sit, but you can't."

The Charleston City Council gave initial approval last month to annexing the towing business' three adjoining lots, and next week the council and the Planning Commission will vote on zoning Turky's needs for its operation.

Allison Burky Boone, who owns the business, said she knows the site next door is sacred, and she plans to treat it respectfully. "It's not going to be an eyesore," she said of her property.

She plans to use the land along Savannah Highway as a small used-car lot, and the land behind it as a lot to store towed and wrecked cars. There will be high fences around that lot, she said. So it won't be visible from Savannah Highway or Pebble Road. And, she plans to plant more trees along the fence as a buffer between her business and the memorial site.

Charlie Smith, a local resident who lives near the business, said he also is concerned about how the towing business, which will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will impact the neighborhood behind the site along Pebble Road.

Boone said tow trucks will enter Turky's from Savannah Highway most of the time. But they will use the Pebble Road entrance during rush hours, when it's hard to cross Savannah Highway.

Smith said it's puzzling to him that the city would spend $1.85 million to purchase the memorial site "then put a junk yard next to it. It's either hallowed ground or it's not."

Tim Keane, the city's planning director, said city leaders had concerns about the towing business being next to the memorial site. But, he said, the company's land had the county zoning to run such a business.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.