ST. MATTHEWS – The Calhoun County Planning Commission unanimously voted Thursday to reject the rezoning request of a developer who wants to build 170 homes in a rural part of the Sandy Run community.

“This decision is remarkable,” Sandy Run resident Wanda Puckett said. “It is a great decision. It was really the only decision they could make.”

Planning commissioners wasted little time in making the decision without any public discussion. Their unanimous vote brought a round of applause from those in attendance, with some choosing to give a standing ovation.

Gateway Land Development was proposing to build the housing units over two phases. The first phase was to include 85 houses and the second would include 85 houses. Lot sizes would be 70 feet wide and 120 feet deep.

In order to develop the property, the company was asking the county to rezone the approximately 131 acres of Old Sandy Run Road property from rural neighborhood, industrial and community commercial to a planned-use district for the project known as the Sandy Run Crossing Development.

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Currently, about 70 acres of the property is zoned rural neighborhood.

Planning Commission Chairman Barry Hill said the commission unanimously voted to reject the plan because, “Number one, the local community was definitely against it but it does not fit the zoning ordinance that we have in place there: It is zoned rural neighborhood.”

Hill said the rural neighborhood zoning calls for about 1.5-acre lots, but the proposal called for lots at two-tenths of an acre.

“Housing density is no more than 1 dwelling per two acres and we are talking about a large departure from that,” Hill said.

Hill said his feeling is that the developer may not come back with another proposal because going below the level of 170 homes most likely would not be financially sound.

Part of the land is zoned for commercial and industrial and the developer may choose to put commercial property on the land, he said.

Rebecca Bonnette says the request could still come before county council, even though it does not have to. The Republican is the only person running for the Calhoun County Council District 3 seat in November.

Her main concern is “overdevelopment coming to our area too fast and wreaking havoc on our roadways.”

“The environmental cost of losing wildlife and flooding is also a concern,” she said. “We need to have managed growth.”

Bonnette said if the developer uses the land as it zoned – one house per two acres – that would be satisfactory.

Puckett said her primary concern was that, “Sandy Run is not ready for that growth.”

“We know that growth is coming, that is inevitable,” Puckett said. “We need to be prepared for it. We don’t have the emergency personnel for it. We don’t have the infrastructure for it.”

Puckett noted the roads are already packed with traffic without the development.

She’s is concerned the developer will return.

“But we will be back as well if they do,” she said. “The people in Sandy Run care about their community.”

Residents of Sandy Run filled County Council Chambers on Thursday in display of protest against the rezoning plan.

They held signs and wore red to show their displeasure at the proposed development. Sings read, “Stop the Rezone,” “Stop Gateway,” “No to Gateway,” “Keep us Rural,” “Vote No” and “Don’t Change 2019 Sandy Run Plan.”

Hill says he has been on the Planning Commission for about six years and has never seen such a turnout of the public about a single issue.

“This has been our most heavily contested issue we have ever had since I have been on,” he said.

Initially GLD had plans to develop 304 houses on 88 acres. That proposed development would have been built out over a five-year period. The planning commission unanimously struck down the proposal last month.

Residents opposed to the new proposal say it runs counter to the “Sandy Run Area Plan” developed with residents about three years ago. The plan was compiled after consultation with key stakeholders.

Residents have also expressed concerns about the development’s possible impact on the environment, crime, traffic and taxes needed to provide services.

The proposed development is also in a flood zone.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a non-profit public interest law firm, sent a letter on July 20 to Calhoun County Council and the Calhoun Building and Planning Office opposing the development.

The letter was written on behalf of the “Calhoun County Citizens for Rural Preservation – Stop the Rezone,” an organization “founded on preserving the rural character of Calhoun County and protecting the community from risks of unwise overdevelopment.”

The SCELP, in its letter, requested the rezoning be denied, claiming the project is against the county’s code of ordinances, is in a flood zone, would increase traffic, would not fit into the character of a rural community and would not provide affordable housing at a proposed average of $275,000 a home.

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