Last updated: December 26. 2013 8:58PM - 960 Views
By - cwarner@civitasmedia.com

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UNION — It has been a growing part of the City of Union for decades and is in the process of expanding its presence on Main Street but until this month USC Union was not included in the city’s zoning ordinance.

An amendment to the zoning ordinance prepared by Robby Moody, Senior Planner for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, states that “colleges and universities are vital for providing higher educational opportunities for local citizens and for promoting economic development.” The amendment further states that because of this, it is the responsibility of Union City Council to adopt “reasonable and uniform regulations” for the “placement” of colleges and universities.

To do this, the amendment states that the current zoning ordinance “will be clarified and strengthened to better these types of institutions.” The section of the zoning ordinance governing “Permitted Uses for Non-Residential Districts will be amended to provide accommodations for colleges and universities in Non-Residential Districts.”

The amendment, which was approved by council earlier this month, defines a college or university as “a post-secondary institution for higher learning that grants associate or bachelor degrees and may also have research facilities and/or professional schools that grant master and doctoral degrees. This may also include community colleges that grant associate or bachelor degrees or certificates of completion in business or technical fields.”

The addition of language governing colleges and universities to the ordinance was recommended in order to promote growth and development of institutions of higher education, particularly USC-Union; and to resolve the non-conforming status of the campus.”

According to the City of Union Planning Department, USC Union was “grandfathered” in when the city established its zoning ordinance which originally did not include language covering the zoning status of such institutions. The ordinance lists five commercial districts including Business Zone A-1 (Central Business District) which “is established to provide for and promote concentrated development of retail establishments and personal and business services to supply the needs of residents and transients and business and industry in the urban area as well as the entire trade area. The zone is located in the heart of the city where the major streets converge.”

USC Union is part of the Central Business District and therefore is a Business Zone A-1 property/establishment.

Another district listed by the ordinance is Business Zone A-4 (Office, Institutional and Residential) which “is established for a compatible mixture of residences, business, and professional offices, hospitals, clinics and other institutional uses.”

Colleges and universities are also listed as permitted Business Zone A-4 use and according to the planning department this is to help accommodate USC Union’s expansion onto Main Street.

USC Union is in the process of renovating a building at 311 E. Main St. for use as a bookstore and student center. The renovations, which are projected to cost $300,000, are designed to create a new and enlarged bookstore at the front of the building. The bookstore, which will carry coffee and snacks, books, and also Gamecock, Bantam, and USC Union merchandise, will be able to accommodate 26 people and will be open to the public.

The majority of the rest of the building will be the new student center which will be twice the size of the existing student lounge and able to accommodate 125 people at a time. The new students center there will include two study or meeting rooms and feature a large space for tables and chairs, a ping pong table, a large screen TV, and a television for video games which students can check out from the bookstore.

At the back of the building will be a patio that students can also use.

In addition to the student center and bookstore, the building will also house an office area which will be used by campus security.

The renovations were scheduled to be completed this month and the new facility open in January. Once that happens, the old bookstore will be converted into at least two faculty offices. The lounge will also eventually be converted to office space as well.

USC Union currently has a total enrollment of 481 and officials hope that the new facility will make the campus even more attractive to potential students as well enhancing its presence on Main Street.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.

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