Proposed historic property office development plans causing concerns in downtown Summerville

Dorchester County News

A historic property in the downtown Summerville area may soon be the site of new office buildings. The proposed plans are causing concerns among some residents.

“It’s going to change downtown Summerville forever,” said Franklin Smith, a lifelong resident of the town.

The plans call for renovating and demolishing portions of 211 West Richardson Avenue and demolishing other small buildings located next to the home. They also include adding two new office buildings on to the property with about 10,000 square feet of space.

Smith created signs that say “Stop Aggressive Developer” and put them up in front of the home on Friday.

“The increased pressure of parking, the increased pressure of business, that is not the kind of business that attracts tourism. This is the kind of business that just attracts citizens that live here. That type of business could be located anywhere and does not need to be located on a historic site,” he said.

Smith’s grandparents used to live in 19th century home, which he says used to be on the National Register of Historic Places. While his family no longer owns the building, he is concerned because he says the home may lose its cherished history if all of the developer’s plans are approved by the Summerville Board of Architectural Review.

The first set of plans went before the board on Feb. 5 and March 5 and were approved.

“The aggressive developer who is Tom Wallington is planning to gut the living room and dining room of this beautiful antebellum home which will change the nature of the home forever,” said Smith.

One of Smith’s biggest concerns is the amount of on-street parking that he says was given to Wallington under preliminary approved plans. The project requires 41 spots with 25 on the property and 16 street parking spots reserved for the office buildings. He says those parking spots are currently used to safely drop off children at the next door YMCA and he worries that their safety could be jeopardized.

“This spot would probably be clobbered by employee parking or client-based parking starting early in the morning and all throughout the day because of the numerous businesses that would be behind me,”  Smith said when he was speaking with News 2 in front of the home on Friday.

Smith claims that Wallington wants to keep the project out of the public eye but a Summerville town official disputed that. An e-mail from Summerville Public Information Officer Mary Edwards said:

“The developer is not trying to keep it out of the public eye. He is going through the process just like every other person who wants to build in the Historic District.  All adjacent property owners were sent letters as required by our ordinance. The project was posted in both local newspapers (for the demo) as well, as required by our ordinance.

The property is zoned commercial and has been for a very long time, as is the rest of the surrounding block and the block across the street.”

Another concern for Smith is that he believes that the board did not follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation guidelines in making its decisions.

The guidelines he claims were not followed include:

1. “A property Shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment.”

2. “The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or modification of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.”

9. “New additions exterior modifications or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property.

Wallington did not return a request for comment.

According to information provided at the town’s Board of Architectural Review meetings in February and March, the plans goals include maintaining the character of the existing building and for the new buildings to blend in with the neighborhood.

The plans are expected to again go before the Board of Architectural Review at its next meeting on May 7.

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