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Letter: Dollar General rezoning puts county at crossroads

Posted: July 30, 2018 3:33 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2018 1:00 a.m.

At its meeting on August 14, Kershaw County Council (KCC) will vote on whether to rezone 10 acres at the intersection of Longtown Road and Wateree Dam Road. The rezoning request has come from Dollar General so it can build a store at this location. So far, after 2 readings, KCC has voted 6 to 1 (the councilman from the district, Al Bozard, is against) in favor of this request. For the reasons expressed, this rezoning would be a mistake.

This particular site is a special and unique location. It is the only road leading to and therefore the gateway to the Lugoff side of Lake Wateree. It is presently zoned MRD1 which is single family residential allowing no more than 1 structure per acre. The rezoning would convert this area to GD (“General Development”) allowing a list of 21 different structures including buildings up to four stories with no limit on density other than small lot size requirements.

Now, with the exception of the bait shop across the street that does not comply with the MRD1 classification but is “grandfathered”, there is no commercial development within miles in either direction (about a 13-mile stretch from Longtown to Lugoff). Dollar General would be totally inconsistent with the surrounding area.

Also consider the following: safety. Dollar General has a nationwide crime problem. Googling “Dollar General robberies” yields 542,000 results. The Dollar General store in Lugoff was robbed in January of this year. The ones in Cassatt and on Route 1 were robbed in the fall of 2016. Safety again -- this intersection is very dangerous. Presently it has a daily traffic count of 2,800. The intersection is angled and partially blind in both directions as you enter from Wateree Dam Road onto Longtown Road. Safety again -- the area in front of the bait shop has a steep hump forcing cars to park on the roadside leaving only a few feet between fast moving cars, and logging trucks. Lake Wateree is the county’s main natural resource and again this intersection is the only road leading to the southern part of the Lugoff side. The county’s web page says, “Lake Wateree has served as one of the state’s premier fishing and boating destinations for almost 100 years.” A Dollar General Store, one of 50,000 similar stores in the 48 contiguous states, sets the wrong theme as the gateway. A Dollar General store would be totally out of keeping with the surrounding area made up of farmland and a few homes, plus a small, quaint and lovely Shiloh UMC (country) church. It does not fit by a long shot.

The seller of the property owns 947 adjoining acres so what is next? What are this owner’s plans? Plus the owner is not an area resident, so his interests are not the same as one who lives here. Kershaw is under enormous growth pressures and preserving the sense of separation, natural wonder and serenity must be a high priority and especially at this special location.

I am not unmindful of the reasons given in favor of the request: shopping convenience (primarily for Lake Road residents) and economic development. As to the former, the Lugoff Dollar General is 5.9 miles from this site and a 9-minute drive including the traffic light just past the Studebaker. As to the latter, the only item given so far is six or maybe seven jobs. Googling general comments about Dollar General not only reveals employment issues but often negative impacts on communities once a Dollar General store arrives. Another point heard is the ability to use one’s land as the owner wishes. But land ownership does not wipe away all other interests of a society as seen by virtue of the KCC 383-page recent zoning law and regulations (2011 and revised in 2016). Many commenters at KCC have opposed this request because they relied on the zoning and the rural nature of the area.

This rezoning should be defeated in the long term best interests of Kershaw County. There is no sufficient reason to alter the long term land management plan established by the county’s precise, extensive and uniform comprehensive zoning structure.

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