Community concerns prompt Goose Creek business to withdraw controversial rezoning request

Blue and Gold Auto Salvage has been in business 40 years strong in Goose Creek.

She explained to county leaders that the initial goal behind her rezoning request was simple: ease area traffic around Blue and Gold Auto Salvage and keep a small business—40-years strong in Goose Creek—competitive.

But owner Cheryl Rash told Berkeley County Council, at its meeting Monday, that she’s “angry now” after her request took a turn for the worst, sparking community outrage over possible negative consequences from such a change.

“They keep bashing us,” Rash told the Berkeley Independent about local criticism of her business. “It’s been hard to bite my tongue.”

Since March, Blue and Gold has been seeking to rezone its property from R-2, manufactured residential district, to LI, light industrial district. Rash said by rezoning, truck traffic would be allowed to drive over a corner piece of property—about 1.6 acres in size—adjacent to the business.

Rash explained how for a long time she’s wanted to place a scale on site to weigh vehicles people are considering selling to the salvage yard.

“People like to sell their cars and go to different salvage yards and weigh them,” she said during a presentation to council members on July 8. “People are now buying old cars by the weight of the car and so that’s why you kind of need a scale.”

But having a scale on the property might generate added truck and trailer traffic—from customers waiting to be weighed—on the business’s main road, Howe Hall Road. It’s traffic Rash said she and her husband Dan, also owner of Blue and Gold, have witnessed at other similar area businesses and want to prevent at theirs.

“We’ve seen this at other salvage yards and people get frustrated so we thought, ‘Let’s learn; let’s weave (traffic) around on our little corner piece of property, and that gives us a little room,’” Rash said.

She told county officials that competition and the Internet have changed how her salvage yard needs to conduct operations.

“Where we normally would go out and tow these vehicles in, it has come of the time where people are wanting to load up these cars and bring them to salvage yards and have them weighed and (say) ‘give me the money,’” Rash said. “That’s exactly why we’re changing. We cannot be competitive with other yards that are buying vehicles like this so we do not have the influx of vehicles to be able to continue operation if we do not stay competitive.”

But residents living near the business have feared that the seemingly minor change might result in significant, irreversible consequences, impacting their children’s safety and their neighborhood’s overall quality of life.

“It’s disrupting our peace completely,” said resident John Myers Sr. at Monday’s council meeting. “It has no benefit to our community whatsoever.”

Fellow resident Terry Nelson, who addressed the governing body at a July 22 meeting, agreed.

“As a community, we are trying to build up our community, not tear it down,” he said.

Nelson said he also thinks rezoning could have a much larger local impact.

“Once it’s approved, there’s no going back,” he said. “There’s no changing—doesn’t stop a company from Illinois from coming in and purchasing, buy, do whatever it is they choose to do in the light industrial (zoning).”

But Rash defended her business, touting it as a vital part of the community.

“We keep to ourselves as much as we can,” she said. “I don’t think we’re detrimental to the community. We do add value to Berkeley County. …The junk cars need to go somewhere; they have to be dismantled; they have to be sorted before they can be properly recycled.”

Even Mayor Greg Habib came to the Rashes’ rescue—last month posting his support for Blue and Gold on social media and calling the couple “pillars in their community.”

“The numbers of people…they have helped are innumerable, not to mention the number of jobs they have provided to the same folks,” Habib said in the July 8 post. “The opposition to their plan is ill-informed and nonsensical.”

While the county’s Planning Commission first heard the rezoning request in April and recommended a denial, the Land Use Committee later approved the request and recommended it to the council. But Rash pleasantly shocked community members on Monday by announcing her plans to withdraw the request.

Myers praised the withdrawal and emphasized that he and neighbors have no personal enmity toward the business or its owners.

“We are in favor of the quality of life in our community, and we didn’t have any hate and discontent toward them,” he said. “It’s just for the value of our community and our families. We’re sorry that tempers got kind of, like, out of control; but you know, that’s the way it gets sometimes.”

While the current rezoning request is dead, Rash said the business still needs a scale and she’s not done looking at other rezoning options, though at this point they might be slim to none.

“We’re going to look at our options, but I don’t know that we really have any,” she said.

Unsure if the property has enough depth to even maintain more truck traffic that a scale might cause, Rash said she plans to “do everything in her power to try to prevent” congestion, for the sake of the community.

After all, she said being a “good neighbor” has been her goal from the beginning—only seeking a zoning change because she thought that best for the business at the time.

“We were just trying to do what was right,” Rash said.

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