Originally created 11/15/00

Ordinance alterations requested



AIKEN - The new owner of the old mile track, where the harness racing leg of Aiken's Triple Crown is held, is asking for sweeping changes in the city's regulations governing the horse district, saying they hamper his business potential.

The city's Planning Commission asked staffers Tuesday to take a look at the list, which includes a telecommunications tower so that Bruce McGhee can land his helicopter on the property, one item unlikely to get approved in the district where high-strung thoroughbreds are trained.

But in a work session where the requests were discussed briefly, commissioners said they don't want to change the zoning ordinance crafted in 1996, before the McGhees bought the track. Property owners in the district concurred at the time.

The pending process could sort out what Mr. McGhee and his wife, Janis, say they've been told they can't do and what the ordinance actually permits. Commissioner Rachel d'Entremont said some of what the McGhees say is prohibited probably is not, such as a restaurant. James "Pockets" Carter runs the Track Kitchen at the Aiken Training Track.

And some commissioners say that a tack shop, a coin laundry and other facilities for workers and patrons at McGhee's Mile would be allowable if not opened to the general public, as the McGhees would like.

It all started over a mobile home the McGhees been living in for two years. The city has given them a timetable to build a permanent home, which will require a special zoning exception. The McGhees want the ordinance changed so a free-standing house in the horse district requires no special permit.

They want to live on the property to be there 24 hours a day.

Outgoing Commissioner Lucy Knowles said she supports the McGhees building a house, but they should follow the same rules required of everyone else.

Resolution of the McGhees' concerns won't come quickly, but they were assigned a top priority Tuesday.

In other business during its public meeting, the commission unanimously agreed that Highland Park should not be made a one-way street in front of the Aiken Golf Club, where a blind curve, angle parking and golf carts create traffic hazards.

Instead, commissioners recommend that the city take over maintenance of the street from Florence Street to Park Avenue and add "traffic-calming" measures.

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.