Request to divide land in Aiken’s horse district now headed to court

November 28, 2018

A man who owns property in Aiken’s horse district has taken his land-sectioning fight to court.

A notice of appeal and petition for review was filed in civil court on Nov. 21 regarding a Board of Zoning Appeals decision that denied Rhett Riviere’s request to split his 10-acre lot, which lies south of Grace Avenue S.E., west of Two Notch Road and north of Mead Avenue.

The property is smack in the middle of the city’s famed equestrian cradle.

Riviere’s complaint asks the court find the Board of Zoning Appeals’ denial arbitrary and capricious. The complaint also requests legal fee reimbursement.

Riviere’s original request involved dividing his property — home to a mix of equestrian and residential uses — into two portions: one 6.35 acres in size, the other 3.65 acres in size.

A minimum 10 acres is needed per lot in the horse district, per the city’s zoning regulations. But exceptions do exist.

“The zoning ordinance requires 10 acres or larger for horse district properties, however there are a number of properties ... that are smaller than 10 acres that have been grandfathered in essentially as such,” Planning Director Ryan Bland said during the board’s August review.

“So there are a number of properties within the vicinity of the property that are zoned horse district and less than 10 acres in size,” Bland later added.

Subdividing 785 Grace Avenue S.E. — and the variance needed to do so — would “facilitate separating his residence from a third-party commercial” stable operation, according to the complaint. The split would result in “no change” in use, and the property would essentially “remain the same,” according to the same filing.

“10 acres is too large to maintain for what you can do on it. You’re just wasting money maintaining,” Riviere said in August. “If it was 20 acres, well there’s a farm.”

Riviere, at the time, said the subdivision plan was not a gambit to attract buyers.

“That’s not the purpose,” he said, “but it is to create properties that are viable within the horse district.”

Letters of both support and opposition were submitted to the Planning Department ahead of the August meeting.

Riviere addressed the letters during the meeting, lauding the support and fighting back the detractors.

The board ultimately shot down Riviere’s asked-for variance 5-1, according to documents submitted to the court. One board member was absent.

A formal notice of denial, written by Bland, was issued to Riviere at the end of last month.

Riviere had 30 days to appeal that final order.

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