Clarendon County Planning Commission met last week. The primary issue before the Commission was a series of duplexes proposed for a seven-acre parcel on the corner of Turbeville Highway (US 278) and Sam Hill Road.
The development proposed by L. Eric Coker, Jr., would contain seven one-acre lots, each with a two-family duplex. Adjacent property owners were notified, and three letters were received asking the Commission to reject the proposal.
The first letter expressed concerns regarding the writer’s continued property value and possibly increased property taxes, whether or not the duplexes would be section 8 housing, and whether the tenants would be vetted to ensure safety for other residents. The second letter expressed neighborhood safety concerns as well.
The third letter expressed those same safety concerns, asking if the police force would be adequate to police the area. It also expressed concerns regarding noise and increased traffic.
A fourth letter was received in favor of the proposed building site. The writer stated Coker owned several other buildings in town, all of which were well-maintained. He wished Coker would buy or build more properties, because of the improvement value to the town.
Coker was called to the podium. His company owns “quite a few” rentals in the area, and they have a long waiting list to get into homes. They wish to build upscale duplexes to serve more families on their waiting lists and already have signed lease contracts for each unit. Coker further assures no section 8 applications will be taken on the home.
The building project will provide 14 jobs in the area for 18 months, and he feels the influx of families will boost the local economy.
“We are in need of kids coming to East Clarendon. We all saw what came out in the paper about having less than 1,500 kids, and I won’t go there. But we need kids coming to East Clarendon, or we’ll be pushed into consolidation. We need good, good families coming to East Clarendon,” said Coker.
Coker stated all residents have been qualified with background checks, credit checks, income levels and employment, and they are locked into a three-year contract.
Tony Womack spoke next. “We don’t hate Mr. Coker. This is not a revenge thing. But we are concerned, because this kind of development is a revolving door to strangers.”
Womack stated the community is a quiet town where everyone knows one another’s names. He states the community doesn’t want “a bunch of strangers” who possibly won’t stay long. He’s concerned for his children’s safety, and he mentioned areas which were improved in the area that also promised to be nice improved areas. However, the areas have become run-down and are not safe areas to walk down the street in Womack’s opinion. He also brought a petition of 175 signatures against the building project.
Others spoke, expressing various concerns. Nancy Frank lives directly adjacent to the proposed building site. She queried how many Clarendon County Sheriff deupties would be dedicated to the area.
Betty Lee asked if Coker was concerned about the community growing, why not build houses rather than duplexes. She also expressed concern over the section 8 issue. While she acknowledges Coker has stated it’s not slated to be section 8 now, she fears in three years, after the original contracts are up, if the duplexes are not making enough money, Coker may sell it and it may then become section 8.
Jennifer Windham wished to know how the property was zoned. The property is in the performance zone district, which allows multiple uses including commercial, industrial and residential. However, if it is residential, anything not single-family must come before the planning commission. This is not a re-zoning but rather an approval of the type of multi-family depending on the area in question.
Windham then stated she felt the amount of asphalt and concrete means the proposed building project does not fit the requirement to be compatible with usage in the area. She states the families moved there to be on rural property and don’t want that to change. She then expressed concern with the spike in traffic on Sand Hill Road with the 12 new families who would live there. She also supported an idea of a subdivision rather than duplexes.
The Commission discussed the 10-year comprehensive plan they adhere to when they assess projects such as the one proposed by Coker.
“As far as the staff has researched, is within the boundaries of the comprehensive plan,” said the Chairman.
The comprehensive plan contains differing objectives and goals for an area. The plan supports various types of residential housing throughout the county. Per the plan, the area has existing water and power to the area. Within the performance zone, single-use or a combination of housing types is allowed. The development is in compliance with the comprehensive plan in every way.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve a permit for the building project.
During the remainder of the meeting, the Commission approved permits for several manufactured homes to be placed on various personal properties. They also approved a sandblasting business to be placed as a home-based business.