Greenwood City Council voted unanimously to deny a zoning change that would allow three fraternity houses to be built on W. Durst Avenue by a group based out of Augusta. The same group attempted to build a group of fraternity houses on the Sunnyside property located on Dargan Avenue. That request was denied in April by a unanimous vote.
The new property in question is one lot located at 221 W. Durst Ave. and two adjacent unaddressed lots. The property is currently owned by BLT, LLC, a local group seeking to sell the property to the same group based out of Augusta that attempted to have the Sunnyside property rezoned. The proposal included three fraternity houses that would be built on the two undeveloped lots.
Nine people spoke in opposition to the proposed zoning change that would have changed the zoning of the property from R-4, which is single family residential, to R-12, which is high-density residential and would allow up to 12 units per acre. The new zoning would also allow the fraternity houses to be built on the property.
Taylor Tucker, who lives at 202 W. Durst Ave., spoke against the proposed zoning change.
“We respect the fact that someone wants to build something on this property and we’re not against it if it’s within the zoning laws of what’s there now,” Tucker said. “But we are definitely against the fact that we do not want high residential.”
Nancy Cothran, who has lived on W. Durst Avenue for more than four years, said she did not “want to be calling the police constantly.” Many other residents echoed that sentiment, including Bill Wilson who owns two rental houses on the street.
“As advantageous as it would be to the investors, I don’t think they would like to live on the street or across the street from (fraternity houses),” Wilson said. “I believe fraternities are good things for universities and they draw people there. I’m not against fraternities, but not on a street like West Durst that has all of these families living there.”
Russell Lawrence, a local realtor and the listing agent for the property, spoke in favor of the zoning change, citing the $1.25 million investment that would be made on the property. While Lawrence spoke, there was a large amount of banter exchanged between Lawrence and some of those that spoke against the zoning change, prompting Lawrence at one point to say, “Now, you’ve had your turn to speak.”
Council members expressed their opposition to the proposed change, including councilwoman Linda Edwards.
“I have always had a problem with outsiders buying up property, promising us they’re going to do one thing and come to Greenwood and create a worse problem than we’ve already got,” Edwards said.
Councilman Kenn Wiltshire’s son, who attends the University of South Carolina and is a member of a fraternity, gave council some general information on fraternities. Wiltshire’s son noted that nearly half of U.S. presidents were members of fraternity and most fraternities require their members to perform a certain amount of community service each month.
Randy Bouknight, vice president of student affairs at Lander University, addressed council as well, giving the city’s governing body more general information. Bouknight noted that he had not been contacted by any fraternities about the possibility of opening up a fraternity house near the campus.
Council voted 5-0 to deny the request. Mayor Wellborn Adams abstained from the vote, citing a financial conflict, and councilwoman Nikki Hutto was not present at the meeting.
Council did unanimously approve another zoning change on the corner W. Durst Avenue and Stanley Avenue that will allow the owner of the property that formerly housed Advertising Specialties to use the property as his residence. The zoning change would also allow the owner to turn the residence into a duplex. There were no speakers either in favor of or against the zoning change.