Nurseries' new life?

ZZ Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of North Charleston-based The InterTech Group, hopes to rezone the 686-acre former Carolina Nurseries wholesale plant farm. File

MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County Council on Monday denied a rezoning request that would have allowed nearly 1,000 new homes on a former plant farm on U.S. Highway 52.

ZZ Real Estate, an affiliate of North Charleston-based industrial conglomerate The InterTech Group Inc., had requested to rezone 688 acres that was the former Carolina Nurseries plant farm from heavy industrial and flex-1, or agricultural, to a combination of industrial, commercial, and single and multi-family residential uses.

The site, which also borders Gaillard Road, would be split, with about 364 acres used primarily for industrial purposes, while about 324 acres would include two commercial zones and up to 924 housing units, including as many as 400 apartments. 

In denying the request, Councilman Josh Whitley and other council members cited increased traffic on U.S. 52, estimated at nearly 12,000 more vehicles per day or double the current load, officials said. The additional traffic would strain several intersections and require at least a couple new traffic signals, county officials said. 

Councilman Steve Davis cast the lone vote against the rezoning denial.   

In addition, the applicant requested that three environmental impact assessments remain confidential, county Planning Director Alison Simmons said. 

"That is not acceptable," said Whitley. "The public has a right to know the environmental impact of the development. That, in and of itself, is a deal killer to me."

The former wholesale nursery site has outbuildings, unpaved roads, wetlands and ponds. It has been vacant for nearly seven years.  

It was acquired by ZZ Acquisitions in late 2010 during a public auction after no one stepped forward to outbid the debt the InterTech affiliate was owed by the nearly century-old business.

ZZ Acquisitions loaned about $12 million to the nursery in March 2009 to help keep the struggling business on firm ground. But the nursery was crippled by the recession and unable to repay the loan or find other financial backers, and the lender foreclosed on it.

Nearly 500 people lost their jobs when the nursery closed, and ZZ Acquisitions spent a couple years selling off millions of plants that were part of the inventory. 

Since then, the company has tried to sell the land and has used it for storage for Mercedes-Benz vans produced in North Charleston. 

In 2014, former Supervisor Dan Davis proposed that the county purchase the property for a public industrial park but couldn't get support from council.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.