McDonald’s asks city again to rezone land in Celanese Road neighborhood

adouglas@heraldonline.comMay 25, 2013 

The McDonald’s Corp. is asking again that the city of Rock Hill rezone land near a neighborhood off Celanese Road so that it can build a new drive-through restaurant.

The fast food corporation and its local developer withdrew their request for the change about three months ago after some neighbors voiced concerns over potential traffic and quality of life problems in the area if the restaurant is built.

McDonald’s wants to use 1.76 acres for its restaurant. The land includes one house and a used car lot and its dealership office at the corner of Celanese Road and Mount Gallant Road.

Development plans call for tearing down existing buildings on the property and building an 8-foot brick wall to buffer nearby homes from the restaurant.

Applicants who request that property be rezoned in the city are allowed to reapply any time as long as the City Council has not denied their request, said Bill Meyer, Rock Hill planning director.

Had the council already voted on and denied the McDonald’s request, the applicant would have had to wait one year before reapplying, Meyer said.

Council members have not yet been asked to give approval on the rezoning request.

Councilman Jim Reno recused himself from discussion or taking action on the request in February, saying he has a business relationship related to the development plans.

“To be fair to all parties, I recuse myself,” he said, adding that if the topic came up in executive session, he would not sit in on the discussion.

The Planning Commission first approved the change on Dec. 4, 2012.

Local developer Bryan Tuttle requested twice that the council defer making a decision on the original rezoning application.

The second request is “starting from scratch,” Meyer said.

The city’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing June 4 to consider McDonald’s request to rezone a residential lot to commercial property. If commissioners approve, the decision will rest with the City Council.

Tuttle, working on behalf of McDonald’s when the corporation first applied last year for rezoning, said then that the new restaurant is expected to create 100 jobs and add $3 million to Rock Hill’s tax base.

Tuttle did not return e-mails or phone calls from The Herald requesting comment on the current rezoning application.

He has said that despite some Oakwood Acres residents fighting the rezoning, there are many in the neighborhood who support the new restaurant.

The neighbors’ opposition to the McDonald’s plan centers around a restaurant enter and exit point expected to go on Monterey Drive, a residential street in Oakwood Acres.

Some neighbors have told the city’s Planning Commission and Traffic Commission that allowing McDonald’s customers to use Monterey Drive will create an unsafe space for neighborhood children.

Two houses in the neighborhood sit about 500 feet from Celanese Road and just steps from the proposed drive-through site.

McDonald’s incorporated a “pork chop” traffic-controlling device in its development plan in order to ease neighborhood concerns.

With the device on the road, Tuttle has said that cars leaving McDonald’s will be unable to drive through the neighborhood and will have to exit toward Celanese Road.

Another in and out point will be placed on the Mount Gallant Road side of the development.

City officials have said that the S.C. Department of Transportation will not allow McDonald’s to put an entry or exit point on Celanese Road.

Some in opposition to the plan contend that the Mount Gallant and Celanese Road intersection is already unsafe.

“Someone will die at that intersection trying to pull into McDonald’s,” said Paul Anderko, a Rock Hill resident who lives close to the proposed restaurant site.

“An IHOP would be fine. A Denny’s would be fine. It’s just a fast-food place is going to attract high traffic.”

The city of Rock Hill does not conduct traffic studies for rezoning proposals of this size, officials have said.

The Traffic Commission told concerned neighbors earlier this year that the city would perform a traffic count on Monterey Drive to try to identify any existing problems on the street.

Wade Neal, one of Oakwood Acres’ oldest residents, says he plans to attend the June 4 meeting to remind city officials that he doesn’t want McDonald’s to open up shop at the end of his street.

Recently, he said, he watched 11 cars speed by his house in less than five minutes. A popular fast-food joint will make traffic worse, Neal said.

“It’s like a race day.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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