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Aiken City Council balks at controversial Waterloo Street rezoning ordinance

November 27, 2018

Following a dicey, barb-ridden public exchange, the Aiken City Council has hit pause on an effort that would revise what has been described as a western gateway to the city’s downtown area.

City Council on Monday night unanimously tabled an ordinance to rezone 11 properties fronting Waterloo Street, a stretch between and perpendicular to Richland and Hayne avenues.

The pause was first suggested by City Council member Ed Woltz. The actual motion was made by City Council member Ed Girardeau, and it was seconded by City Council member Dick Dewar. City Council member Gail Diggs was absent from the meeting.

If the ordinance is eventually approved — which requires two nods, and no timeline was provided Monday night — the 11 properties would assume limited business zoning. The 11 lots are currently zoned limited professional, a seldom-used designation.

Earlier this month, the Planning Commission, which advises City Council, recommended rezoning the 11 lots. The Planning Commission’s recommendation excluded two general business-zoned lots along Waterloo Street.

Public opposition to the rezoning was evident Monday night. Clusters of neighbors and concerned residents attended the City Council meeting. About a half-dozen spoke.

The oft-cited rezoning concern — the Waterloo Street endeavor is now months in the making — is that a limited business designation would spur abundant commercialization, essentially ruining the historical atmosphere in and around the area.

That includes parking woes.

One woman on Monday night said limited business zoning would erode the area, not strengthen it. Another woman said the historic district needed protecting. A third woman alleged inaccurate information was being presented at the meeting. One man said he was “disappointed” in the entire process, describing it as amorphous, “not well thought out” and ramrodded; another man suggested the rezoning effort might be happening backwards.

Various City Council members on Monday night called for better information the next time the Waterloo Street topic is taken up.

Limited business zoning has been described in Planning Commission documents as transitional: zoning that encourages a fusion of business, walkability and homemaking.

A majority of the Waterloo Street properties have most recently been used for commercial purposes, according to planning information.

City Council earlier amended the definition of limited business to exclude and prevent convenience store and liquor store uses. That move followed Planning Commission deliberation, as well.

Planning Director Ryan Bland was called on several times to clarify things and answer City Council’s questions Monday night.

Jack Hunter, the Planning Commission chairman, attended the meeting Monday night to represent his panel.

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