City Council Rejects Plan to Build Homes Under Flight Path of Richland County Airport

Nov. 11, 2020

Nov. 10—A plan that would have brought 90 new townhomes to Columbia's Edisto Court neighborhood was voted down by City Council on Tuesday after several council members cited concerns over the proposed development's proximity to Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport.

All but one council member voted against Atlanta-based Stratus Property Group's request to rezone a parcel of land about 900 yards from the airport's runway from light industrial to residential use.

Council member Howard Duvall said the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission's concerns about the zoning change swayed his vote. Back in July, the commission provided a letter to the city stating that the proposed development posed an unreasonable risk to aviation safety

Daniel Rickenmann, the one council member who voted in favor of the zoning change, said he felt the location was not an issue. He pointed out that the city had invested in another residential development just down the street.

"It would have opened up some opportunities down there to change the face of this corridor," he said.

Council member Will Brennan, whose district includes the site of the proposed townhomes, said he would rather the site be used as an employment campus as is prescribed by the city's 20 year plan for the Rosewood area.

"We don't have a lot of light industrial in the city," he said. "These zones build jobs."

When the plan was first brought before the City Council in September, it drew criticism from airport officials who said that long-standing to extend the runway could be jeopardized by encroaching development. Several nearby residents also spoke out against the plan, citing fears that college renters would move in and change the character of the neighborhood.

Leading up to the vote Stratus Property Group President Jeff Koon said he and his team made several changes to their plan to try toplease the neighbors. The changes included designating 20% of units for renters making less than 80% of the area's median income.

"Though we were hopeful for an approval today, we are excited about our future in Columbia and look forward to working with the city on other projects in the years to come," he said.

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