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Aiken development team wants consistent look/feel for The Alley

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — The Alley in Aiken, South Carolina is changing and the local downtown development association wants to make sure the area doesn't lose its character.

"It started as a place for people to drive through to connect from Laurens to Newberry," Haley Knight told NewsChannel 6's Shawn Cabbagestalk. "Now it's a place where everyone comes," she added.

Knight is the Executive Director for the Aiken Downtown Development Association. She says the feel of The Alley is different from any other in town.

"Repaving it and moving all of the phone lines and everything and all of the cables down underneath and some of the furniture and lighting has made it different from any other area,"  Knight also said.

Her team will go before the Aiken Design Review Board, Tuesday night, to get a better handle on what changes could be made to the area. "This has been a conversation that has been of interest for a while now. We really want to encourage diversity with its growth that we have seen but also have certain standards," she stated.

Their concerns -  screening of storage, within the downtown area, mainly The Alley, additional amenities in the common space such as patio furniture, trash receptacles, and things such as that. 

The design review board, currently, has jurisdiction over structural changes. City zoning ordinances control street and parkways. "But there's no specific mentioning of right-of-ways, which is what the alley is, in those ordinances," Knight added. 

She's hoping ADDA and the City can work together to create common design elements.

"We would like to see the Design Review Board or another appointed entity recommend common design elements throughout The Alley to provide a structural framework that encourages uniqueness of business brands while still maintaining a consistent brand for The Alley itself," a letter from the Aiken Downtown Development Association Design Committee said. 

The letter went on to mention unsightly areas, such as behind restaurants and small alleyways, and the need to adopt a "more consistent theme of decor" within common spaces."So we would like to see if there is a way to work together to create some of those standards and what organization will that go through," Knight added.

According to a memorandum dated August 27, 2018, "In order to ensure clarity in the interpretation and application of our Zoning Ordinance regarding design elements of buildings and structures in right-of-way spaces such as The Alley and parkways, the Board may deign to introduce a text amendment to the Zoning Ordinances that explicitly names these spaces as an addition to the list of covered areas."

It goes on to say "In order to address screening concerns, the Board may consider a text amendment to the Zoning Ordinance requiring that property owner in named districts or zones provide adequate screening for the storage of materials, debris, utility equipment, etc."

If the Board decides to pursue a text amendment, the Board can direct staff to place the item on a future agenda for a formal vote to recommend the amendment(s) to the Planning Commission for consideration.

The Planning Commission must then hold a public hearing on the matter before making a recommendation to the City Council for final approval. 

The work session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers off of Park Avenue Southwest.


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