City decides proposed student apartments don't 'pass muster'

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By Johnathan Ryan

One of the early steps to build student housing at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster failed Tuesday night as Lancaster City Council voted down the necessary rezoning.

Some residents of Brook Drive, where the proposed 10-unit apartment complex would be, voiced concerns on how quality of life, traffic and public infrastructure would be affected, and council voted down the measure 3-2, with Councilmen Preston Blackmon and Danny O'Brien absent.

Mayor Joe Shaw and Councilmen John Howard and Gonzie Mackey voted against the rezoning request. Councilmen Audrey Curry and Bill Sumner voted for it.

The measure called for changing the zoning from R-15, a residential designation, to M-F, the multi-family designation.

The project's developer, Wayne McBride, told council the proposed $1 million apartment complex would consist of units with four bedrooms.

He said feasible options exist as to where sewer lines would be run, besides property that USCL owns, though the USCL Educational Foundation denied that idea.

McBride said USCL students would be given preference to the apartments, although technically they would be open to anyone.

"We want what happens to be the best for USCL and the residents of the area," Bryson said.

But several residents close to the proposed apartment complex spoke in opposition to the plan.

"It just doesn't seem to me to be practical," said Brook Drive resident Marita Dot Eaton, adding the area already has enough concerns with noise and traffic.

Eaton said she supports the university's growth, but said she doesn't want it to include "overcrowding and marginal living" for students.

The complex would only occupy .85 of an acre and be accessed only by a narrow Brook Drive.

McBride said he would widen the section of Brook Drive in front of the complex, but opposed residents said there's no guarantee the road would be enlarged. Some also questioned whether the parking spaces provided at the complex would be enough for residents and whether tenants would take to parking along the street.

Howard, who represents District 5, where the complex would be, said the plan "just doesn't pass muster" when considering the city's planning guidelines.

He would like for university officials, nearby residents, developers and students to develop a comprehensive plan for USCL's growth that balances the interests of all concerned.

There's enough "common ground" on both sides to do that, he said.

After the meeting, McBride talked to some of the residents in the lobby. He was hesitant to elaborate on what his next move might be, but said he listened to the residents' concerns and will consider them in his planning.

"I've got some options – I just haven't decided what I'll do yet," McBride said.

USCL Dean Dr. John Catalano had written a letter to McBride expressing excitement about the proposal and that USCL students could have filled 150 beds last school year. McBride's development would have filled an estimated 50 beds.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416