Mayoral Minutes

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Fountain Inn, Political

September 4, 2023 by Fountain Inn Mayor GP McLeer - Views: 57

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Mayoral Minutes

I get a lot of questions most days that go like this, “When are we going to get a _____?”, or “Why did you let [insert business] open up there?”

I wanted to demystify that question a little bit with this month’s column.

The first step that happens in any commercial real estate deal is this - someone sells their land. The City is not involved in this decision because the City does not own every piece of land in the city limits that currently is vacant - private citizens or companies do, and they do not, and should not, need the City’s permission to sell their property.

Commercial entities, in particular household name businesses, look at a few things when they decide to build - number of people, number of cars, demographic data, and land. If the number of people are driving enough cars, and the people in about a 5-mile radius have the spending power needed for that particular business to make a profit, then that business will look at opening up a shop around those people. At that point, they begin looking at properties that meet size, location, and price specifications for their store. None of these things involve the City’s legal authority - it is all the free market.

It is a formula created by their corporate office.

Many people tend to think that “the city” (any city) picks and chooses who opens up shop in their city limits. And while of course the City has a vested interest in advocating for businesses to open up that meet some of the comments from the community - there is no “Store of Stores” that cities have access to and can pick anything they want for their town. 

If the formula doesn’t fit, the business doesn’t come. 

The City’s authority enters this conversation only in the context of laws - zoning laws in particular. 

If a property is already zoned commercial, it is the owner’s right to build whatever is allowed under that zoning. If the zoning needs to be changed though, or a variance is needed from one of our building codes - then the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, City Council, or a mixture thereof, do get involve and decisions are made. But there are laws in place that restrict reasons why certain changes can or can’t be made - the City can’t simply refuse something only because they “don’t like that business”, that is against the law.

Aside from approving, or not approving, rezoning requests or variances, the City also can change the zoning laws themselves. Fountain Inn has done this along Highway 418 in our “418 Overlay District” (a “bonus” set of zoning laws specific for just that corridor). We only allow things like gas stations and car washes greater than 2,000 feet apart - an update we made in 2021. The effect? The QT and the car wash currently under construction on Highway 418 are the last gas stations and car washes you’ll see on that side of the interstate.

So the next time you drive by a vacant lot and think, “Why hasn’t the City built a ______ here?”, remember that there is no “Store of Stores” and there is a lot more to that conversation.■ 

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