Simpsonville annexes interchange

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By Walt Reichert

About 40 people showed up at the Simpsonville City Commission Tuesday to watch the panel unanimously and without comment approve an ordinance annexing 42 acres at the I-64 interchange into the city.

The plan adds to the Simpsonville city limits about 35 acres of the interstate itself and surrounding land inside the cloverleafs as well as about 7 acres of land owned by Redline Properties, LLC. That 7 acres was the reason residents were at the meeting Tuesday night and most were not happy about the city's annexation.

"Unbelievable," one resident muttered as he left the room after the vote.

Ron Pottinger, who on Nov. 29 met with Simpsonville city officials on the annexation as part of Mayor Steve Eden's initiative to talk with residents south of the interstate, said he was disappointed the city rushed into the annexation vote.

" We had asked them to delay the vote," Pottinger said. "I'm disappointed they voted on annexation. It seemed like they never talked to us. I hope there's not any repercussions out of their rush to annex."

Doug Butler, a school board member and resident of the south side of I-64, who helped organize the opposition to the annexation, said he would not comment further on the commission's vote.

"I learned a long time ago that if you find yourself in a hole the first thing you do is stop digging," Butler said.

Underlying residents' concerns about the annexation was fear that the city of Simpsonville will allow development on the south side of the interstate that will devalue their homes. Last spring, residents protested before the Triple S Planning and Zoning Commission Redline's plan to put a heavy equipment dealership on the 7-acre site. Redline had to ask for a zone change from agriculture to X-2, which would allow for the dealership. But Triple S recommended against the zone change.

Residents fear that if Redline tries again, which it can do within one year of its first request, the Simpsonville commission would overturn Triple S's recommendation. The residents accused city officials of reaching an under-the-table deal with Redline. Residents were also angered that the commission will have control over zone changes that will affect their properties even though they do not live in the city of Simpsonville and cannot vote for commissioners.

"We don't have a voice," one resident muttered as he left the meeting.

But Eden and City administrator David Eaton said the city would not allow a heavy equipment dealership or any other development that "did not serve the traveling public" on land near the interstate.

After the vote Tuesday night, Eden said the city would, within the next few months, look into adding new regulations that would further restrict what type of development could go on the land near the interstate.

"Zoning will allow us to be more stringent," Eden said.

But Pottinger dismissed Eden's comments.

"I think he said that just to make us feel better," Pottinger said.

After the meeting, Commissioner Cary Vowels said he hopes the vote will lead to more dialog between city officials and residents south of the city.

"We've got to get together to work things out," Vowels said.

But many in the crowd Tuesday night were not feeling conciliatory.

Pottinger said several residents have threatened to boycott businesses in Simpsonville to protest the vote.

"Some of them said they'll never shop in Simpsonville again," Pottinger said. "The mayor said he wants Simpsonville to be a place where residents can shop and find what they need, but if he makes them mad, that's not going to happen."