Traffic study may delay vote on Celanese Road McDonald’s

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 13, 2013 

Neighbors opposed to a new McDonald's on Celanese Road say they hope the Rock Hill City Council will again delay voting on whether to rezone less than 3.5 acres of land slated for the fast-food chain.

The local developer for the fast food restaurant, Bryan Tuttle, said he'd be fine with the council not voting as planned tonight because McDonald's still is trying to find a "win-win" scenario with the Oakwood Acres neighborhood.

The question of whether the city should rezone one home in Oakwood Acres from residential property to commercial property to accommodate a new McDonald’s appeared on the council's December meeting agenda. Council members didn’t discuss the rezoning request then because Tuttle asked that the vote be deferred.

The vote could be delayed again tonight if council members choose to wait for a traffic study to be finished in the Oakwood Acres neighborhood.

Last month, Tuttle requested a delay because a deed restriction on the home's lot, which restricts commercial development, had not been changed.

Under state law, the City Council would not have been able to give its approval for McDonald’s to build on the residential lot – even if rezoning is approved – unless Tuttle gathered enough signatures from neighbors to remove the deed restriction.

Now, Tuttle says, the last detail to smooth out is the concern about traffic on Monterey Drive and Franklin Street, two residential streets next to the proposed restaurant site.

Over the past year of planning for the McDonald's, some neighbors say their opposition to the new business has been centered on the potential for increased traffic. Last week, five neighbors voiced their concern to the city's Traffic Commission, which agreed to start a traffic study this month in parts of Oakwood Acres.

The traffic study is expected to take about two weeks.

Building a 24-hour restaurant next door to homes will create safety and traffic problems, Kevin Webb told the Traffic Commission on Wednesday.

Webb and his wife Peggy have attended previous city meetings to voice their opposition to using residential property and the existing used car lot on the corner of their street, Monterey Drive, for the new restaurant. The Webb's live about 200 feet away from the proposed McDonald's site.

"My main concern is that we're diverting traffic off Celanese Road – which was designed for the traffic – into a residential area," Kevin Webb said last week.

Other Oakwood Acres residents, such as Bobby Nasekos, said McDonald's would bring more cars down Monterey Drive and Franklin Street – roads children use daily to wait for school buses. Nasekos lives four doors down from the proposed McDonald's site.

Wade Neal, one of Oakwood Acres’ longest residents, told the traffic commission on Wednesday he's concerned about children who walk along Monterey Drive in the summer and from a public swimming pool. A McDonald's close to homes and the pool, he said, could pose a safety problem because there are no sidewalks on Monterey Drive.

Mark Hinson, whose home is across the street from the proposed McDonald’s site, said he thinks the restaurant shouldn't have an exit and entry point on a residential road like Monterey Drive.

McDonald's plans to use a traffic deferral device known as a "porkchop" because of its shape to channel traffic on Monterey Drive. Rock Hill's Planning Commission and the state Department of Transportation's Cliff Golsby say the "porkchop" should work to keep cut-through traffic out of the neighborhood after cars leave McDonald's.

The “porkchop” was added to McDonald’s original site plan, Tuttle has said, in response to neighborhood concerns. The company has listened to Oakwood Acres residents, he said, and wants to put its best foot forward on the new development.

He said he expects the Celanese Road McDonald’s will add $3 million to Rock Hill’s tax base and create about 100 new jobs.

Even with significant potential economic impact, the new McDonald’s has chosen the wrong Rock Hill corner lot, said Paul Anderko, an Oakwood Acres resident and leader of the GPS Conservatives for Action PAC.

Traffic is already dangerous at the intersection, he said, and cut-through activity through the neighborhood would worsen with a restaurant on the corner.

“I don’t think the city planning commission did their homework,” Anderko said. “I think they just want the revenue.”

The city wouldn’t make accommodations like rezoning a residential lot to commercial, he said, if McDonald’s were proposing to build near a more affluent subdivision in Rock Hill.

“The city sees this as a rundown neighborhood,” he said. “(They think) this would be better for them and ‘what do the people know.’”

Even without the city rezoning the residential lot, McDonald’s could seek a building permit for the already existing commercial property along Celanese Road. The corner lot is currently occupied by Americar, a used car dealership.

The council representative for Oakwood Acres and the surrounding area, Kathy Pender, said she thinks she needs more details about the impact of a McDonald’s on the neighborhood before she can decide on rezoning property. The opposition from neighbors, she said, is something she understands and respects.

A traffic study, said Rock Hill’s planning director Bill Meyer, should allow the city to apply “some hard data” to the situation. McDonald’s, Meyer said, has been receptive to neighborhood concerns about traffic.

From a planning perspective, he said, the McDonald’s restaurant would be a good replacement for Americar on Celanese Road.

“It’s trading in an old, non-conforming, generally unappealing (business) for a brand-new, shiny facility,” he said.

Tuttle is handling the sale of Americar’s land to McDonald’s and has secured a place nearby on Celanese Road for the car dealership to move to.

Although he said it's unusual to defer a decision on rezoning twice, Tuttle said he'd rather have more time to address the neighbors' concerns about McDonald’s before moving forward.

"And I think (city) council would like to see this vetted out," he said.

The council will meet at 5:30 tonight in City Hall’s Council Chambers.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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