Lack of support may postpone Aiken plan

AIKEN --- Aiken City Council members learned of a special called meeting that will be held by the planning commission after concerns about the Highway Overlay District ordinance were raised last week.

Bill Reynolds, the chairman of the commission, told council members in Monday's meeting that the commission will meet Thursday to decide whether to postpone a public hearing on the ordinance scheduled for Feb. 9. The ordinance seeks to beautify the major corridors of Aiken that are not included in the Historic and Old Aiken overlay districts. Design guidelines would be set for about 1,000 businesses, including commercial and office buildings, multifamily residential buildings and new businesses.

Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce president David Jameson announced Thursday that the chamber no longer supported the ordinance because of concerns about costs to small businesses. Reynolds said the announcement prompted the commission to consider holding off on moving forward with the ordinance for now.

"Some of the concerns have surfaced in the last month or so," Reynolds said. "This is too important to the community to do this without having thought this through."

Councilman-at-large Don Wells said he has spoken with several business owners who say the ordinance should be improved before the council votes on it.

"The community and a number of business owners are saying, 'Let's slow this thing down and take a good, hard look at how this will affect these folks,' " Wells said. "Let's make this the best piece of legislation we can have before we go forward."

The commission will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 214 Park Ave. S.W.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The council also:

- Approved the second reading of an ordinance to rezone Helping Hands from limited professional to planned institutional.

- Approved the first reading of an ordinance to rezone property and approve a concept plan for property owned by Second Baptist Church on Dupont Drive. The zoning would change from residential single-family to planned residential.

- Approved the second reading of a proposed ordinance to revise the residential plan for The Village at Woodside so the city can place a well and water-treatment center on unused land.

- Approved the first reading of an ordinance to purchase land for a new water treatment facility.