Simpsonville gets 130, wants 10 more

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By Walt Reichert

The city of Simpsonville is growing by leaps and bounds - in land if not in people.

At its Wednesday meeting, the commission voted 5-0 to annex 130 acres of land south of the city and across I-64. The annexation had been requested by AKDB, LLC, which is owned by John (Papa John) Schnatter.

The commission also held first reading on an ordinance that would annex another 10 acres on the south side of I-64 into the city. The land, which lies to the east of Buckcreek Road, runs parallel to the interstate and is owned by James Robert Walters, Elizabeth Bair Settle and Kitty Walters Caudill, trustee of the Kitty Walters Caudill revocable trust.

A spokesperson for the AKDB property said the company wanted the land annexed into the city of Simpsonville because it did not want to be annexed into a new city, called the city of Veechdale, that residents south of I-64 are trying to form.

About a dozen of those residents, who have in the past protested the city's annexation of land across the interstate, were at the Wednesday meeting. But in contrast to previous encounters, the public comment period was less rancorous.

Residents asked the commission about their long-range plans for the city of Simpsonville, including the newly annexed areas near the interstate.

Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden said the city's long-range planning is primarily directed toward improving its downtown area. The city recently applied for a state grant for sidewalks, Eden said.

City Administrator David Eaton said while the city did not have a long-range plan for other areas, it has been working with Triple S Planning and Zoning to clarify what types of businesses can and cannot go in the interchange zones the city has acquired. Businesses such as truck stops, rental equipment businesses and large retail stores would be prohibited if the regulations are approved and adopted. Eaton said he hopes the regulations, if approved, will be adopted by both the county and the city of Shelbyville.

"Simpsonville is leading the way on this," Eaton said.

Other residents told the commission they hoped the city would enforce architectural regulations for anything built south of the interstate.

"We would rather have vacant land than a cheap mall," Robin Schetzel said. "It needs to be done tastefully or don't do it at all."

Another resident said she didn't want anything "that would make truckers go over there."

Doug Butler, one of the leaders of efforts to form a new city south of the interstate, told the commission it needs to get past labeling residents who have opposed the city's annexation attempts as "those people over there."

"These people are in the community daily," Butler said. "I'm the school board representative for all of your children. We have been people who have tried to reach out. This dialog has been healthy. And you need to get past some of those pronouns you use for people south of the interstate."

If the city approves the annexation of the Walters' property at its next meeting (April 1 at 7 p.m.), the city will have land on both sides of Buckcreek Road south of I-64. The land lies within the zone set up in the Comprehensive Plan, which the city of Simpsonville can annex without getting permission from fiscal court.

Also at the meeting Wednesday, the commission took first reading on an ordinance that would make changes to the city's landscape and buffer requirements for new development. Triple S Planning and Zoning earlier this year approved the changes. A second reading on that ordinance is also scheduled for the April 1 meeting.