Rock Hill neighbors fight rezoning for McDonald's

Oakwood Acres residents say changes will increase traffic

adouglas@heraldonline.comDecember 25, 2012 

— Plans for a sixth McDonald’s in Rock Hill hinge on the fate of a little blue house that sits less than 500 feet off Celanese Road, near one of the city’s busiest intersections.

After nearly one year of planning, the McDonald’s Corp. and a local developer have one part of the fast-food puzzle left to solve: Persuade the Rock Hill City Council to reclassify the blue house on Monterey Drive from a residential lot to a commercial property.

Five residents from the Oakwood Acres subdivision attended the Dec. 4 Rock Hill Planning Commission meeting, saying the 24-hour restaurant would cause quality of life and traffic problems if it’s built near their homes.

After listening to the neighbors and local developer, Bryan Tuttle, the Rock Hill Planning Commission voted in favor of rezoning the little blue house and a nearby used car dealership, Americar.

The group sends all zoning recommendations to the City Council for final approval.

McDonald’s could buy the Americar property and build without the city rezoning any land because the car lot is already classified as commercial.

The residential lot is needed, Tuttle says, because it would allow McDonald’s to build an 8-foot brick wall and add landscaping on the blue house’s lot. The extra space would serve as a buffer, Tuttle said, which is favorable for neighbors if McDonald’s develops the land.

But some neighbors say no part of the McDonald’s plan is favorable and they are worried the commercialized buffer zone will lead to more commercial development.

“I know what’s going to happen,” said 84-year-old Monterey Drive resident Wade Neal.

“It’s going to work its way down.”

‘Nothing but just open fields’

Wade was one of Oakwood Acres’ first residents when homes starting popping up on Monterey Drive in the early 1950s.

He and his wife, Sarah, bought the land after he left the Army. They watched Celanese and Mount Gallant become major Rock Hill thoroughfares.

Even before plans for a new McDonald’s, the race to commercialize Celanese has transformed quality of life in Oakwood Acres, Neal said.

That progress and change, he said, was impossible to see coming in 1955.

“Then, it wasn’t nothing but just open fields.”

Celanese, Mount Gallant and Cherry Road run a perimeter around Neal’s neighborhood.

Those major streets that border Oakwood Acres have changed drastically over the years, he said, but the neighborhood in between hasn’t.

Monterey Drive – which runs through the neighborhood, parallel to Mount Gallant – is a 17-foot-wide street. With the exception of a facelift every once in a while, Neal said, Monterey Drive has not changed to accommodate “cut-through” traffic. And, that is one of the reasons why Neal and many of his neighbors say they are complaining about McDonald’s and rezoning the land.

Traffic concerns

Throughout the months of planning, Tuttle said, McDonald’s has responded to those traffic concerns.

The site plan calls for two entry and exit points to the restaurant’s parking lot.

A “pork chop” – named that because of its shape – traffic deferral device will be installed at the McDonald’s entrance and exit driveway that empties onto Monterey Drive and Franklin Street.

Cars coming from either direction on Monterey Drive will be able to enter the restaurant’s parking lot.

But cars exiting McDonald’s onto Monterey Drive will only be able to make a right-hand turn toward Celanese – which the developer says will prohibit cut-through traffic.

Safety, property value

Some neighbors – especially those who say they are retired and drawing Social Security – say that while traffic is a concern, they are more worried about their safety and their property value decreasing if McDonald’s builds on the corner.

Myra Little – who lives three doors down from the proposed restaurant site – said she isn’t entirely supportive of McDonald’s moving in because it might hurt her property value. Her home on Monterey Drive is all she has, she said, to leave her kids.

But, she isn’t fighting the development, she said, because there’s little she can do to stop it.

“We can’t fight corporate America,” she said.

After seeing the restaurant design plans, Little said, the McDonald’s would probably look better than what is on Celanese now and will bring in big tax dollars for Rock Hill.

The Celanese Road McDonald’s, Tuttle said, will add $3 million to Rock Hill’s tax base and create about 100 new jobs.

“McDonald’s definitely wanted to put its best foot forward,” Tuttle told the Planning Commission on Dec. 4.

Gathering signatures

One resident, Peggy Webb, attended a recent City Council meeting where the rezoning proposal was expected to be on the agenda. The council deferred voting on the rezoning at Tuttle’s request, so that the council members could wait until their Jan. 14 meeting.

Webb gave the council a petition with 11 residents’ signatures in opposition to the McDonald’s opening. She said it took her 40 minutes to gather 11 signatures and felt sure she could get more.

She isn’t sure anyone can stop McDonald’s from opening, she said, but she wants to stop the rezoning on her street. She and her family live less than 200 feet from the blue house.

Many neighbors are concerned, Webb said, that if they block the rezoning, McDonald’s will build on the car lot alone and leave the neighborhood with no buffer at all.

The buffer is better than nothing, she said, but she thinks McDonald’s is the last thing her neighborhood needs.

“It don’t have to be in my neighborhood,” she said. “And I don’t want it in anybody else’s neighborhood.”

Traffic and speeding on her street, she said, is already a problem because the homes are close to Mount Gallant and Celanese Road.

“But now I’ve got to smell nasty fast food for the rest of my life,” she said.

Peggy and her husband, Kevin, have raised two daughters in their Monterey Drive home over the past eight years.

“It means a lot to me because I live on that road. Yes, it might be a road with just ditches on the side,” Kevin Webb said. “But to me that’s my front yard.”

Deed restriction a factor

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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