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Chick-fil-A a step closer to Camden
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It’s been 18 months since the city of Camden announced that Chick-fil-A was looking to locate in Camden. In January 2011, officials said they knew the restaurant company was looking to locate somewhere near Wateree River on West DeKalb Street.

At Tuesday night’s Camden Planning Commission (CPC), City Planner Shawn Putnam told commissioners what they’ve been waiting to hear: Chick-fil-A has submitted building plans to construct a restaurant on a portion of the Seven Oaks shopping center on U.S. 1 diagonally across from Springdale Plaza. Those plans, Putnam told commissioners, also came with a petition to annex a slightly more than 1-acre parcel of the Seven Oaks property into the city of Camden.

Kmart, Big Lots and several smaller businesses are located at Seven Oaks.

“The building plan is currently under review by our building department,” Putnam said Wednesday of the proposed Chick-fil-A.

Putnam said Kershaw County has already granted Seven Oaks’ owner, Wateree Associates LLC, subdivision of the parking lot for the restaurant’s construction. He said the proposed restaurant would be located at the Springdale Drive/West DeKalb Street entrance to Seven Oaks immediately across from Rush’s.

“The rest of (the shopping center) will still be out of the city. They have not mentioned to me that they want to annex the rest of it,” Putnam said. “I’m comfortable saying we would like to see it all in the city since it’s completely surrounded by city property.”

He said the CPC will likely hold a public hearing about the annexation at its July meeting. First, however, Camden City Council has to give staff the go-ahead to pass the annexation petition on to the commission.

“It will be at Tuesday’s work session,” said City Manager Kevin Bronson.

Bronson explained that a formal vote is not needed, only a general consensus during the work session instructing staff to forward the petition to the CPC.

According to the Kershaw County Assessor’s online mapping services, Seven Oaks is split into two large parcels, both owned by “Wateree Associates, c/o Indigo Associates.” A check of Indigo Associates through the S.C. Secretary of State’s Office shows its registered agent is Allen S. Guignard of Cayce. Bronson said Guignard is the man he has most often spoken with about the Chick-fil-A deal.

Both Bronson and Putnam said Chick-fil-A has been interested in the Seven Oaks lot for a long time. Putnam also said the idea of the restaurant’s coming to Camden never died.

“It is not the case that they ever walked away,” Putnam said, answering questions of whether city regulations caused Chick-fil-A to rethink the move. “The project was put on hold by corporate. To my understanding, everything is handled by Chick-fil-A headquarters -- the financials, finding someone to manage the restaurant -- I have no reason to believe the delay was due to any policy the city has.”

That includes signage issues, Putnam said.

“They have never talked to me about signage and no one else on staff has told me that they have. Unless they work something out with Seven Oaks to have their name on its sign, they will have to have a sign that is low to the ground,” he said.

Bronson said Chick-fil-A also takes its time with construction -- about 16 weeks versus 12 weeks for other “fast food” restaurants.

“Last I heard, they said it could be February before they’re done,” Bronson said.