[media-credit id=18 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The City of Rock Hill’s Planning Commission approved a recommendation to rezone property along Celanese Road to make way for a new Walmart shopping center Tuesday night. The board approved the rezoning measure 3-1 in a decision that is ultimately up to City Council for final approval.
The Walmart Neighborhood store, as the company describes, would occupy 40,000 square feet of space — about one-fourth the size of a typical Walmart Supercenter — and carry common items found in an everyday grocery store.
The retail giant’s plan calls for building the store on what is now wooded land on the south side of S.C. 161 in Rock Hill between Ebinport and Ebinwood Roads. In drawings submitted to city planners, Ebinwood would be removed as part of the construction of a 14-acre shopping center and Ebinport re-aligned with S.C. 161 at a new traffic signal.
Residents turned out twice — once in November and again Tuesday night — in opposition of the plan. Some opposed specifically with the Walmart, while others were opposed with any form of development.
Between the two Planning Commission hearings, Walmart executives and the developer re-worked some plans in response to residents’ concerns. Those changes included a wider buffer between the rear of the store and nearby property, the erection of a six-foot privacy fence along the back of the shopping center and using mature trees as part of the land buffer.
But despite those efforts, residents like Steven Claron still voiced opposition to the plan.
“This case will lower our [property] values,” Claron said. “This project is not good for Swan Meadows and is not good for Rock Hill. The need simply is not there.”
Claron was joined by more than 500 others in a petition presented before the commission opposing the plan. Some petitioners live in nearby neighborhoods affected by the proposed development.
Rock Hill City Councilman John Black is one of seven members of council who have the final say in the project. Black, who was present for Tuesday’s meeting, said it’s difficult to separate neighbors’ emotions from root issues.
“Is it something that the neighbors don’t want that particular company or they don’t want development period?” Black said. “You try to get to the root of what the main issue is and resolve it.”
Black said the city can’t halt development, nor can it single out individual businesses for inclusion or exclusion.
“You have to make sure you individuals’ rights to sell their property,” Black said. “But you also have to balance the impact on neighbors.”
Council may consider the issue as early as January 13.