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What future for current CES property?

Posted: August 2, 2018 3:43 p.m.
Updated: August 3, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Camden Elementary School’s (CES) sign facing Laurens Street shows that school starts back for students on Aug. 20. About four and half months later, those same students will begin attending school at the new CES under construction down the block on Laurens Street. There are no definitive plans for the current school property, although there has been talk of demolishing the facility and putting the land up for sale. What could replace the school will depend on zoning and permitted uses.

Camden Elementary School (CES) students are expected to move to their new facility on Laurens Street in January. When they do, they will leave behind a more than 35-year-old building on about 7.5 acres of land.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) will then have to focus on what to do with the old school and land.

“The school district is in the process of getting an appraisal for the ‘best use’ of this property,” KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said. “The administration will make a recommendation to the school board based on that appraisal.”

One thing that could happen is that the district could do what it originally did with the site where the new CES is being built: demolish the old school and put the land up for sale.

The Laurens Street site served most recently as the home for Camden Middle School (CMS). The newer CMS on McRae Road opened in 2009. At that point, the district began looking at what to do with the old CMS facility and the land.

The district soon put the property up for sale. In 2010, two developers came forward with plans to convert the property into a small residential subdivision. Both developers had called for Jordan Street to be extended south to Laurens Street. That idea met with substantial resistance from area residents and, ultimately, both developers backed out.

Demolition work began in 2012, being delayed for a short time to conduct asbestos abatement, and completed shortly thereafter. The district cleared off the rubble, allowed the lot to all but revert to grass and kept it on the market.

Two years later, however, the district listed building a new CES on the site as part of a bond referendum that failed in 2014. Another two years went by, and voters approved a revamped referendum that also included constructing a new CES on the old CMS property.

Now, with the new CES about to open, the district has come full circle to needing to decide on what to do with the current CES property.

It is property that the district has held for nearly 100 years.

According to records at the Kershaw County Government Center, Kershaw County School District No. 1 (Camden) purchased the property on October 25, 1919, from G.R. Desaussure and R. Champion Desaussure as trustees for the estate of E.S. Davis for $20,000.

Long-time residents remember a large multi-story school on the site. In 1977, a remark written on an Assessor’s Office property card shows that a building on the site was valued at $542,300. Five years later, in 1982, another notation shows that a $2.396 million building permit had been issued for the construction of “Camden Primary School.”

The 1919 deed shows the property was “8 acres, more or less” in size. A 1919 plat in the Registrar of Deeds Office lists it as 7.27 acres, but also shows a privately owned property to the south that possibly served as a buffer between the school property and Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church. Other documentation shows it originally being 7.21 acres large. Although a deed could not be immediately located showing future purchases, Kershaw County online mapping shows that the western side of the school property is bounded on the south by church property (specifically, a parking lot). The eastern side is bounded on the south by a privately-owned lot.

Online mapping information only lists the school property as “0.00” acres because it is not assessed for tax purposes. It is generally believed that the property is between 7.25 and 7.5 acres large.

What could be built there depends on zoning and permitted uses. A 2016 zoning map available on the city of Camden’s website shows the current CMS site is zoned R15, as is the site where the new CMS is being built. It is wholly surrounded by R15-zoned property, with one exception. Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church is zoned O/I or Office/Institutional. R15 zoning, generally, means lot sizes can be no less than 15,000 square feet and used only for single-family homes.

City of Camden Planner Shawn Putnam said there are two possibilities for a developer under R15 zoning, with the site appearing to be approximately 7.3 acres.

“The only residential type allowed in the R15 zoning district is detached single family residential units. No multi-family units are allowed,” Putnam said in an email Wednesday, referring to apartment-type structures. “The maximum residential density of the R15 zoning districts is 2.5 units per gross acre. Based on that, they could have a maximum of 18 houses.”

Putnam said the other possibility within R15 is patio homes.

“Patio homes (or zero lot line homes) are allowed in the R15 district as a conditional use,” he said, and referred to Section 157.043 within the city’s zoning ordinance.

Those conditions require that such projects:

• have a minimum of 2 acres with a maximum density of 8 units per acre;

• a minimum lot size of 3,000 square feet per unit, but the minimum lot width is 40 feet;

• the maximum height of buildings cannot be more than 35 feet high;

• structures at or near the property line require a 5-foot maintenance easement for the adjoining lot;

• at least one side yard must extend not less than 5 feet from the property line, and, although not required, a second side yard should be no less than 5 feet in width;

• the side yard of exterior units must be at least 5 feet from the “outside” property line, and a 20-foot setback must be provided along the perimeter of all property lines, with trees and shrubs planted as required by Article IX - Landscaping, Buffers, Open Space and Tree Conservation;

• buildings must be set back 35 feet from property lines that are adjacent to streets;

• streets, sewer, water, etc., need to conform to design and construction standards required by city code; and

• the site plan for any proposed patio home or zero lot line development must be approved by the Camden Planning Commission.

There are several other possibilities, but all require rezoning, Putnam said.

“Since the church is zoned O/I, it would be possible to rezone the property to the O/I district,” he said. “The maximum residential density for that district is 5 units per acre, so that would allow for a maximum of 35 residents units. Single family detached units and duplexes are allowed in the O/I zoning district.”

He also said that under O/I zoning, there are “numerous” office types of uses allowed. Examples he gave included financial, medical and educational-related uses.

Putnam then noted that the city’s other residential zoning districts include RE, R10 and R6. The RE district is limited to detached single-family residential units with a maximum density of .75 units per acre -- a maximum number of only five houses would be allowed. R10 and R6 zoning districts allow for multi-family residential units at higher densities. R10 and R6 zones require lot sizes of no less than 10,000 and 6,000 square feet, respectively.

“Considering the fact that the property is surrounded only by single-family detached houses, it is very unlikely that the R10 or R6 would be approved. If a developer wanted to do something else, then we would have to discuss it to see if it would be possible and how the ordinance would have to be amended,” Putnam said.

(The online version of this story has been updated to correctly define "O/I" zoning as "Office/Institutional," not "Office/Industrial," as first published. The C-I regrets the error. A correction will appear in the Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, print edition.)

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