Sumter planning commission in favor of increasing locations for schools

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 8/24/18

Sumter City-County Planning Commission voted to recommend approvals of requests that would benefit two property owners in their endeavors for residential and educational projects.

Rezoning will open land to residential development

Agenda Item: …

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Sumter planning commission in favor of increasing locations for schools

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Sumter City-County Planning Commission voted to recommend approvals of requests that would benefit two property owners in their endeavors for residential and educational projects.

Rezoning will open land to residential development

Agenda Item: A request to rezone two parcels totaling 2.45 acres at 2800 Dock Road from general commercial and agricultural conservation to agricultural conservation.

Background: Both parcels - which are currently undeveloped and split zoned general commercial and agricultural conservation - have frontage on Dock Road in the Dock Road subdivision.

The other lots in the subdivision are zoned agricultural conservation, said Daniel Crum, a planner with Sumter Planning Department.

The general commercial zoning on the two lots in question comes from their proximity to Thomas Sumter Highway which is mostly strip-zoned general commercial, he said.

Crum said the existing pattern of development for the subdivision is low-density rural residential development so the agricultural conservation zoning would be more appropriate for the property despite the county's 2030 Comprehensive Plan which supports commercial use along that portion of Thomas Sumter Highway.

He said the applicant intends to place manufactured mobile homes on the properties if they are rezoned. A general commercial zoning prohibits that action, according to a staff report from the planning department.

Discussion: Commission member Dennis Bolen made a motion for approval, and commission member Bertha Willis seconded.

Recommendation: Approval

Expanding the locations for schools

Agenda Item: A request to amend portions of the city and county ordinances regarding the general commercial district to add elementary and secondary schools to the district as a conditional use.

Background: The applicant, Sheila Coplin, owns 1-On-1 Plus LLC, an organization that provides tutoring and childcare services and owns Sheila E. Academy, a K-12 school, according to staff reports.

1-On-1 Plus' tutoring and childcare facility are located at 4107 Thomas Sumter Highway, a general commercial district where Coplin also intends to locate the academy.

Unfortunately, elementary and secondary schools are not permitted in any commercial districts in the city nor county, said Helen Roodman, Sumter city-county zoning administrator and senior planner. Schools are only allowed, by conditional use, in residential and agricultural conservation districts, she said.

Roodman said this may stem from state law that prohibits places with alcohol licenses from locating 300-500 feet from churches, schools, parks and public playgrounds.

Churches and playgrounds can waive those separation standards but schools are specifically excluded from that, she said.

Planning staff thinks reviewing the use of a property for school purposes should be taken from a conditional standpoint, she said.

For those reasons, Roodman said staff thinks it is appropriate to add to the applicant's request and consider making elementary and secondary schools conditional uses in the general commercial, professional office, neighborhood commercial and limited commercial districts in the city and county.

"We do believe that the inclusion of elementary and secondary schools in commercial districts allows each location to be evaluated based on its merit and the existing patterns of development around it," she said.

Coplin said the organization has not had any problems so far operating at that location on Thomas Sumter Highway and gets along well with its neighbors.

"So I believe that it would be a great benefit to accept our proposal," she said to the commission.

Discussion: Bolen made a motion for approval, and commission member Doc Dunlap seconded.

Recommendation: Approval

* Sumter City-County Planning Commission can only make recommendations to approve or deny requests. The final decisions are made by Sumter City County and Sumter County Council.