Church voices concerns with rezoning

By Rocky Nimmons


PICKENS — Pickens City Council heard from members of Holy Cross Catholic Church concerning a possible change in the city’s zoning during Monday night’s Pickens City Council meeting, held at City Hall.

Council held a special public hearing on an ordinance that would rezone 518 Hampton Ave. and amend the city’s zoning map.

Holy Cross members Cecil Hitchcock and Angie Vallano spoke to council during the hearing to discuss the church’s concerns with the rezoning of the property.

“Our purpose is to speak against the application that has been submitted to rezone the property at 518 Hampton Ave. from RM16 residential to GBD (General Business District). Our objections are numerous,” Hitchcock told council.

Hitchcock quoted the current zoning ordinance that states that the purpose of general business district is intended for business development on major roadways for the convenience of local residents and the traveling public.

“I think that that section of Hampton Avenue could not be construed as a major roadway,” he said. “In fact, there are only three residential structures on that side of Hampton Avenue. If you start at Pickens First Baptist Church and go all the way to Holy Cross Church, there are only three. All the rest of the property is commercial. It would seem a shame to reduce that number along that side of Hampton.”

Hitchcock went on to say that church members feel that rezoning the property would give too much latitude to the type of businesses that could locate there, both now and in the future.

“We don’t know what type business the new owner is planning, but what would happen the next time the property changes hands? What type of business would come in? There is no guarantee that it would be one that is suitable for the neighborhood,” Hitchcock said.

He also let it be known that the property in question is located adjacent to Holy Cross Church’s rectory.

“The rectory is the home of the Rev. Emmanuel Efiong, our current pastor, and serves as his study and has a small chapel and serves as the priest refuge from the daily stress of ministering to two churches,” Hitchcock said. “At the present time the quiet that this neighborhood has serves our priest well as he spends his few precious hours in prayer or preparing his sermons.”

Hitchcock said that the church feels that any commercial business would interrupt any peace or rest that Efiong may need. He also told council that many out-of-town priests frequently visit and spend many hours in prayer at the rectory.

“We have always tried to be good neighbors in the community,” he said. “We hope the Pickens City Council will consider our request to deny the application for the rezoning of the property at 518 Hampton Ave.”

Mayor David Owens thanked both Hitchcock and Vallano for coming to speak on the matter. City Administrator Katherine Hendricks told council that the ordinance was approved by the city’s planning commission and sent to council.

“What I would like to see done is that we actually discuss this rezoning ordinance before it goes on the agenda. I didn’t know it was going to be on the agenda tonight,” Owens said. “We are going to look at it after the first reading tonight and make sure it does fit with what is trying to be done.”

Owens was told that those submitting the application were not present at the planning commission meeting where it was sent to council. Owen asked councilman Patrick Lark if the applicants had said what type of business they were planning to be located on the property, and Lark replied that the group was not sure yet.

“There are certain restrictions. You can’t put certain things there, if that helps any at all,” Owens said.

When the vote was taken on the first reading, council voted 4-3 in favor of the rezoning, with councilmen Fletcher Perry, Carlton Holley and Isaiah Scipio all voting against it. The ordinance will not go into effect until  a second reading is passed on March 3.

In other business, the council voted to pass the first reading of an ordinance that would amend and limit the location of sexually oriented businesses in the general business district.

“You can’t by state law completely prohibit sexual-oriented business, but you can put them in a certain district and limit where they go,” Hendricks said. “What I understand is, there is a rumor going around that someone was looking to put an adult entertainment store on Main Street, and that is what prompted us to check the ordinance. Under current langue we would have to approve that, and that would be alarming to Holy Cross Catholic Church.

“This ordinance would make the langue crystal clear and how we would enforce it.”

Council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance.

Council also approved a contract with Anders Inc. for $113,166.50 for construction of phase II of the Village Renaissance Project.

The council also heard from the SC DOT and the contractor on the progress of the S.C. 8/U.S. 183 intersection. Council was informed that the project was about 60 percent complete and should be looking much better when weather warms and paving begins. The project is slated to be complete by November, but if weather allows could be finished much sooner. Owens asked that those involved meet with concerned citizens and business owners to alleviate any bad will toward the project.