Originally created 02/14/01

Flea market plan provokes residents' ire



AIKEN - A dozen people who live in Aiken's horse district and on its fringes showed up Tuesday before the city's Planning Commission to say they're horrified at the thought of a flea market there.

That's just one plan owner Bruce McGhee has considered to turn a greater profit at McGhee's Mile Track, the traditional site of the third leg of Aiken's famed Triple Crown. He's had ongoing disputes with the city over what's allowed and what's not, including one over a deadline to build a permanent house on the land or move the manufactured home his family lives in.

Chafing at restrictions, Mr. McGhee asked for 17 changes to Aiken's zoning ordinances last November. The planning commission considered just two.

The panel voted Tuesday to allow tack shops in the horse district if approved after a hearing by the Zoning Board of Appeals. There are three within a mile of the harness-racing track.

But the commission refused to recommend a zoning change that would have brought flea market vendors and heavy traffic to the placid area where horses are ridden and trained.

Mr. McGhee, notified in advance of what city planners were advising the commission to do, did not attend the meeting.

His neighbors said the traffic and atmosphere of a flea market would destroy the character of the horse district and make it unsafe for horses and riders.

Some of the original items on Mr. McGhee's list are not prohibited under current zoning after all, Commissioner Rachel d'Entremont said. If used only by residents of the track, a spa, coin-operated laundry, swimming pool and other recreational facilities would be allowed.

Those facilities could not be open to the general public.

Outdoor entertainment and paid parking would be allowed in conjunction with horse events. Mr. McGhee had wanted to have rodeos, bull riding and concerts.

Mr. McGhee says competitors are trying to run him out of business by stirring up discontent about his plans for the property. Among those shot down so far have been a hotel or motel for customers, an RV park, self-service storage and a restaurant with liquor service.

Two other hot-button issues have been postponed until the planning commission meets March 13. One is a zoning request for property between Stratford Hall and Whiskey Road to allow commercial development. The other is a request for water and sewer services to a 45-acre tract between Whiskey and Powderhouse roads, south of Elmwood Park.

In both cases, nearby residents are objecting.

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