How will our Community look in 20 years?

By Gerald Meetze

I recently took a stroll through downtown Charleston with my daughter, a student at CofC.  She gave me the tour since she was taking a historic preservation class.  We both love architecture, and as we walked, I commented that we live here for a short time, but buildings live on forever.  Some buildings in SC are over 300 years old.

I have spent my career developing and building in Irmo, Chapin and Columbia.  After developing Beaufort Street in Chapin in 2002, still young and energetic, I decided to help with the planning of Chapin.  We created a new zoning ordinance and shortly after I pushed for the creation of an Architectural Review Board (ARB).  It was the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference.  We were able to stop an invasion of metal buildings in our town.  Shortly after Blythewood followed suit.  Every beautiful town in SC has one.  You can tell the ones that don’t.  I strongly encourage Irmo, Lexington and West Columbia to get one.  While zoning is helpful with parking, setbacks, signage, density, and landscaping, it doesn’t control the look of a building.  Unfortunately, someone can build a blue metal building right next to your beautiful home or office.

Outside of the Chapin ARB control, we see the effects of no ARB.  In the county we see giant retention ponds with minimal landscaping and a chain link fence.  We see square metal buildings, obnoxious signs, LED lights around windows, mixed architecture, and cheap construction.  We see homes that are identical, twenty feet apart, with a life expectancy of 30 years.

Look at the new warehouse project next to the Lowman Home.  Who approved that monstrosity?  That project just lowered our property values.  I recently visited with the Richland County zoning officials and discovered the property is zoned Neighborhood Commercial (NC).  You can’t build warehouses or storage in NC.  But it slid right through because zoning was not able to review or see the type of building planned.  They just review the site plan, parking, landscaping, and storm drainage.  A floor plan or site plan doesn’t show the building.  So here we are stuck with these warehouses in the middle of White Rock for the next 100 years.

Lexington County now wants Irmo and Chapin to follow their zoning requirements to receive service and maintenance in those areas.  No thanks, we have our own zoning based on what we want.  Our counties and towns need to follow Chapin’s lead and help us create a beautiful place for future generations to enjoy.  For the 11th year in a row Charleston has been voted the best city in the US by Travel & Leisure readers.  This is due to their stringent zoning and ARB that has not only preserved their buildings but created many new architectural wonders.

Gerald Meetze is Vice Chair of the Chapin Architectural Review Board

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