Out of gas - special exemption denied
A proposed Sunoco gas station that the Board of Zoning Appeals reviewed last week was met with dissension. Residents directly affected by the proposal were on hand to voice their opinion against it.
Their concerns were heard and the board denied the request for special exemption zoning.
The property is owned by Lupert Adler and Preservation Row. This company is affiliated with Front Door Communities, the company that is building The Tributary residential development on Rivertowne Parkway.
The gas station was slated to be constructed at the south-west corner of Highway 41 and Rivertowne Parkway.
The case is under the category of “exemption” due to the fact that the original Rivertowne Planned Development, approved in 1994, would not allow it unless an exemption was made.
The Board of Zoning Appeals’ decisions are final and warrant no approval of the Planning Commission or the Mount Pleasant Town Council.
In October the board voted to defer the proposal, at the suggestion of Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson, pending a more detailed traffic study.
“I realize the less popular route last October was to request a deferral of the project amidst residents demands for an outright denial. It would have been irresponsible for me to simply stand up and demand support or denial of the project without all the facts,” he said. “I was more concerned with honoring the laws as they were written within the rules for a special exception.”
Glasson said he felt that if the residents’ request had merit then the additional information requested would prove their case. If their concerns had no ‘legal’ merit then the results of the traffic study would have endorsed the developers project.
“Either way, submitting ourselves to abide by the ordinances established, that govern the appointed board (BOZA), was the correct course of action,” he said.
“The BOZA does not have the luxury to determine an up or down vote based emotion or likability of a project. They are appointed (by town council) to provide oversite on projects adhering to the established ordinances. In this case, when all the facts were placed in front of BOZA, they clearly followed the law, as noted in the 5 to 0 vote.”
Board member Sy Rosenthal said the results of that study solidified his no vote.
“Our unanimous vote against the special exception affirms the fact that the applicant did not meet the four requirements for a special exception, as required by the standards and conditions in the zoning ordinance; BOZA must apply the standards and conditions imposed by the zoning ordinance, which were not wholly met by the applicant,” he said.
More than 1,000 residents use Rivertowne Parkway daily, as it is the only way in and out of the community. There are currently two gas stations along Highway 41 and one at the corner of Highway 41 and Highway. 17.
Citizens affected by the proposal told board members that Rivertowne already has challenging traffic at the intersection of Highway 41 and Rivertowne Parkway. There are almost 250 Planter’s Pointe homes that have direct access to this road where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour.
Standards for Granting Variances
The 1994 Act establishes a four part test for granting variances. All four conditions must be met in order to grant a variance. The Board must strictly follow these criteria and has no authority to grant a variance otherwise. It is incumbent upon applicants to demonstrate and establish how they meet these requirements:
1. Extraordinary conditions.
There are extraordinary and exceptional conditions pertaining to the particular piece of property. These extra ordinary conditions are not intended to simply differentiate the subject property from others, but actually cause the hardship. Extraordinary conditions could exist due to size, shape, topography, drainage, street widening, beachfront setback lines, or other conditions that make it difficult or impossible to make an economically feasible use of the property.
2. Other property.
These conditions do not generally apply to other property in the vicinity.
See Bennett v. Sullivan’s Island Board of Adjustment,
313 S.C. 455, 438 S.E.2d 273 (Ct. App. 1993). If the extraordinary and exceptional conditions are prevalent in the vicinity, the proper remedy is an amendment to the underlying requirement.
Because of these conditions, the application of the ordinance to the particular piece of property would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the utilization of the property. Prohibition is a total lack of use. An unreasonable restriction is not defined but rises above the level of preference or inconvenience.
The authorization of a variance will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property or to the public good, and the character of the district will not be harmed by the granting of the variance.