Saluda considers Ozone Drive’s future appearance

Published 6:29 pm Monday, February 18, 2013

Property owners along Ozone Drive, which carries traffic between Interstate 26 and Main Street, Saluda, might get a chance to voice their concerns and opinions in the near future, as city officials recently discussed the long-term appearance of the road.

“What kind of vision do we have for Ozone Drive?” asked Saluda Planning Board Chair Henry Bright at a Feb. 12 meeting. “What do we want Ozone to look like?”

Saluda City Commissioners discussed Ozone Drive during a continuation of their Feb. 11 meeting. At that time Bright expressed the need for input from the 46 property owners whose land fronts the thoroughfare. Without help and support from these owners, said Bright, progress would be hard to accomplish.

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“That’s the kind of initiative that we need to make sooner, than later,” continued Bright because planning for development, “is a big, big job.”

His comments found support from various city officials, including commissioner Lynn Cass, who said she wants Ozone Drive to be an inviting entrance into town. Both mayor Fred Baisden and commissioner George Sweet agreed with getting property owners together to provide input.

Feedback included focusing on the stretch of Ozone from Laurel Drive to Main Street, but Commissioner Johnnie Kinard suggested that the effort be extended “all the way out (Ozone).”

Bright asked if commissioners want the planning board to work on ways to make Ozone Drive, or at least part of it, an overlay district. In an overlay district, additional restrictions are added to a particular area. Ozone Drive is currently zoned C2 (commercial). Professional office spaces with pleasing exteriors could help provide a more inviting experience for those driving into town from the highway, commissioners said.

One issue is that some business signs along Main Street and Ozone Drive are currently not in compliance with the city’s ordinance about size and setback distances. However,city administrator Erny Williams noted the city’s intent is not to enforce all violations at once. That would  be impractical, he remarked.

City attorney Bailey Nager noted that both Cashiers and Highlands have pole signs that are low, and present no visual clutter. Saluda’s current ordinance specifies that no sign can project beyond any street line. Portable signs must be no more than 6-square-feet on the larger display side. Commissioner Sweet suggested determining a maximum total height.

Mayor Baisden questioned whether the ordinance allows council to ask owners to repair any signs in disrepair. Williams said the ordinance does allow that, adding that if an old sign can be repaired it does not have to comply with the new ordinance. Nager said if a sign must be replaced, the new one must comply with the ordinance, and if a sign is changed from one business to another, it also must comply.

Discussion followed on specific instances of signs that might be in violation, or are especially unattractive. In one case a business owner’s temporary sign in a C2 area was declared “ugly.” Sweet noted, “If he (the owner) moves it every two weeks, and puts it back, it’s still ugly.”

Regarding the historic Main Street area, Sweet noted an obligation to businesses to have signs that tell people about them.

“It’s evident to me,” said Williams, “that sign issues are big problems that need to be addressed. It will probably take a lot of discussion to solve.”

Those in attendance at the Feb. 12 meeting also considered the issue of building setback distances within the city.

Commissioners discussed how sub-size lots and narrow streets in the city, combined with potential street widening, all affect building setback distance. Attorney Nager noted that street widening would affect existing structures.

Commissioner Leon Morgan said the most fair method is to measure from edge of pavement, rather than the center of a given road. Commissioner Sweet noted the difficulty of predicting whether any road will be widened, but added, “If the center of the road moves, so be it.”

Sweet said he anticipates no changes in the next five years.