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Aiken City Council approves 60 Kensington townhomes

April 25, 2017 GMT

Despite impassioned pleas from homeowners, Aiken City Council voted 5-2 to approve a concept plan for 60 new townhomes in Kensington Place.

Council members Gail Diggs and Lessie Price cast dissenting votes.

“I just cannot imagine imaging having 60 or more cars coming out of Vanderbilt Drive onto the winding roads of Powderhouse Road,” Diggs said. “I have no problem adding 60 units, I just wish there was a road taking them out in another direction.”

Price compared the current situation to an earlier rezoning issue on Teague Drive, where residents initially opposed efforts to allow commercial uses in a residential area. Both sides reached a compromise, Price said.

“My heart breaks for you in some ways. You moved there because of peace and tranquility and now changes are being made with your peace and tranquility,” Price said. “I support businesses 100 percent, but I also support the people in this town as well.”

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Councilman Philip Merry, though, expressed concerns about denying the application, referring to the developer’s previously stated intention to develop the site commercially as an alternative. He said that would dump more traffic onto Whiskey Road.

“It’s ill-advised to add more curb cuts onto Whiskey Road given the traffic situation,” Merry said.

Kensington residents oppose the townhomes, saying they’ll increase construction vehicle traffic through the community.

Most Kensington residents speaking during a public hearing Monday hurled various accusations against the Kensington POA, which supports residential versus commercial development.

Fighting tears, Kensington resident Dave Rossetti said he’s been slapped with a cease and desist order, and that signs he placed in adjacent neighborhoods have been removed. He implored the City to reject the townhomes.

“You cannot change rules in the middle of the game,” Rossetti said. “In my opinion, this is what the developer and the City have done.”

In other business, the council unanimously approved amendments granting special tax incentives to qualifying owners of historic properties.

A recent staff review of state law found that municipalities have more wiggle room than thought to qualifying owners.

“My hopes are that it will be as contagious in Aiken … as it has been in Beaufort, Columbia, Hilton Head, Greenville and so many others,” said Aiken resident Lyanne Haislip, who lobbied for the amendments.

The measure grants City Council power to designate any structure as “historic,” regardless of location or district, as long as the property is at least 50 years old.

It must also “contribute to the historic character of the surrounding measure,” City Manager John Klimm said in a memo.

It also lowers the investment threshold. An applicant can maintain current tax assessment for 10 years after a 20 percent renovation of commercial and residential buildings, down from 100 percent and 75 percent, respectively.