A group of residents of about 300 and counting, including many who live in Baxter Village, have publically denounced a plan to build a QuikTrip convenience store on Hwy. 160 West at Sutton Road. Judging by the comments about the story posted on our website and the response to our online poll – more than 60 percent said they favor the QuikTrip – there also seems to be a good many residents who want to see it built.
For the record, we’re opposed to the convenience store mainly on the grounds that we want to see retail and commercial development in Fort Mill Township that doesn’t duplicate what we already have plenty of. Township has more than its fair share of convenience stores, fast food franchises, car washes and large format supermarkets. We also take the side of residents who oppose the transformation of this main corridor into another Cherry Road, but feel helpless to stop it.
When we raised this issue nearly a decade ago, York County officials assured us – and residents – that its long-range plan was designed to prevent that from happening. Anyone who has experienced the stop-and-go congestion of Hwy. 160 at all but the earliest and latest hours of the day can tell you the county needs a new plan.
It may already be too late.
Road improvements that are in the planning stage for the Zoar and Gold Hill road sections of Hwy. 160, a Pennies for Progress project, should help ease the congestion, but likely not enough during rush hour to mitigate the effects of overdevelopment. And that’s just one element. The ambience of the road, which still has some scenic stretches, is in danger of being permanently transformed.
It seems if drivers aren’t dodging road kill – another sign of overdevelopment – then they are slowing down to pass a fender-bender. Along the way, signs advertising undeveloped property tell the story of the area’s probable future.
As far as the QuikTrip, it does not seem likely that residents opposed to it can do anything to prevent the sale and development of this commercial parcel. The property is zoned for that particular use; the current owner, Baxter developer Clear Springs, on behalf of the retailer it wants to sell it to, is requesting a variance from a required 40-foot buffer on Sutton Road. Even if the county denies that request, which would be surprising, that doesn’t mean QuikTrip will pull out of the deal.
That also doesn’t mean residents opposed to the QuikTrip shouldn’t attend a Dec. 13 York County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing to go on record – but they should not get their hopes up that anything they say will make a difference.
We think residents who are against this development and have other concerns about the future of Hwy. 160 should channel their energy into engaging county officials in a dialogue that could help thwart overdevelopment elsewhere on the road. It would be great to see the county hold several public forums in which officials and residents can identify property that could be targeted for development and discuss concerns and alternatives. Having property owners there themselves to be part of the discussion would make it even better. County officials should go all out to extend an invitation.
If there’s anything the county can do unilaterally to curb the overdevelopment of Hwy. 160, now’s the time to lay it out for residents who want to know. At the same time, it needs to find creative solutions, including working with the local land trust to acquire property that can be saved from development through preservation.
Something has to be done and the clock it ticking rapidly. Otherwise, before long, the only difference between Hwy. 160 and Cherry Road will be the names on the storefronts and drive-thru speakers.