While new development threatens the character of some North Charleston neighborhoods, one community just east of Rivers Avenue and north of Montague Avenue has managed to keep its residential feel.

But that could soon change.

Save for rush hour, when cars use the neighborhood's streets as a cut-through, the roads in Ferndale feature children playing and walking to the community center.

Residents said they fear things would change if a nearby property is rezoned commercial, inviting more traffic on its short streets. They said it also could open the door for more businesses to open up shop and disrupt their quality of life.

"It would take away the feel of a residential neighborhood," said Charlynne Smith, president of the Ferndale Neighborhood Council.

She has reason for hope. The North Charleston Planning Commission recently recommended the city deny a rezoning request at 2003 and 2005 Fuller St. Its vote came after several residents voiced opposition and city staff also expressed a desire to maintain the area's residential character.

The request now goes before City Council for a final decision.

A potential buyer wants to use the site as overflow parking for a longshoremen training center to be constructed nearby on Rivers Avenue.

To mitigate neighbors' concerns, the buyer proposed having a deed restriction placed on the site that would prevent the property from being used for any purpose other than a parking lot, such as a commercial building. But city staff said the commission may not consider such restrictions when making a zoning recommendation.

"We don't do contract zoning," city planner Charles Drayton said.

Residents have fought for years against commercial activity extending into their small neighborhood. A commercial rezoning request on Bolton Street did not go forward, but the addition of a new children's hospital on Rivers Avenue has some residents worried that new development is inevitable.

Amy Gregory, a third-generation Ferndale resident, said she doesn't want to see development disrupt her community, but she feels that business eventually will spill into her neighborhood.

"We're fighting it off as long as we can," she said.

The battle is being waged across the city. Longtime Park Circle residents are keeping a watchful eye on the East Montague Avenue commercial corridor. Last year, residents on Dantzler Drive received push-back after trying to rezone and sell their properties after medical offices moved into their backyards.

City staff said they doubt that commercial development would encroach into Ferndale but noted the area is bound to change. Drayton pointed to the new bus rapid transit system planned to run through North Charleston and spawn denser, mixed-use development along Rivers Avenue.

City officials have acknowledged the need to strike a balance between existing residential properties and new commercial development. Conversations continue about how to improve the housing stock in the city's south end, populated with several historic, low-income communities, without displacing longtime residents.

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