Local, Mauldin

SC-DOT Yields to Historic Mauldin Landmark

Scott Crosby – scott@scottschoice.com – www.scottschoice.com
Joel Ann Chandler, Contributed

One of Mauldin’s most famous and historic landmarks, the Mauldin Open Air Market, appeared to be doomed by SC-DOT’s plans for widening East Butler; but not anymore. Thanks to vociferous objections from the Market’s owner, Joel Ann Chandler, SC-DOT now says those plans are shelved for good.

The following letter was sent by Joel Ann Chandler to SCDOT officials, several members of our County delegation as well as the Mauldin Mayor, Council and County Council members.

Mauldin Open Air Market
699 E. Butler Rd., Mauldin, SC 29662
Owner: Joel Ann Chandler
Phone 864-297-4826

Small businesses are the backbone of this nation’s economy. We need to support them and make sure they can continue to operate in the future, as they have done in the past.

Mauldin Open Air Market is located on the corner of E. Butler Rd. and Corn Road, across from Mauldin High School. We are one block off 385 from exit 33 (Bridges Rd.) or exit 34 (E. Butler Rd.), 2 miles east of Highway 276 Main St. in Mauldin, SC.

This is one of the biggest and the best produce markets anywhere. We have been in business close to 40 years in the same location. We are open every day except Christmas Day, till at least 8 PM.

This business has grown from two boxes of tomatoes to two tractor-trailer loads of fresh produce a week. We support South Carolina farmers and by from locally owned businesses year-round, on a weekly basis. This business is essential to the health and well-being of our customers. We have people of every nationality, from near and far, come to shop at the market. We have longtime customers and friends, plus new faces every day. We carry a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Local honey helps with allergies. Elderberry syrup is good for your immune system. Happy Cow milk is from a local dairy. We make our own hot boiled peanuts. We sell live bait; better to get kids hooked on fishing than drugs! We have pine needles and offer free delivery with 20 bales or more. All of what we offer has been greatly beneficial to people dealing with a most difficult 2020 year. Kids have gotten their pumpkins and Christmas trees here for as long as they can remember. Family traditions such as this should be preserved. Mauldin Open Air Market is a valuable, essential business that needs to remain open and continue to operate in the future.

Several million dollars have already been spent improving the intersection at E. Butler Rd., Corn Road and Bridges Road. Bridges Road has a right turn lane, a center through Lane, a left turn lane and bike lanes. This was done just a few short years ago. A second left turn from Bridges Road would take away the main entrance to the market, as well as up to 20 feet of parking area in the front. We have many elderly and handicapped customers, as well as mothers with young children, who are not able to walk long distances. This is a GPATS Project (Greenville Pickens Area Transportation Study) with DOT involvement, that would take away access to the market and force it to close. E. Butler Rd. would only be made five lanes past the market, not all the way into Mauldin. This does not need to happen! Thank you for your consideration and prompt attention to preserve this landmark business!

“As soon as I heard about the proposed changes to the intersection in front of the market I made up my mind to begin the campaign immediately. This is not my first rodeo. I lobbied the highway department to be considerate of my business when they were improving the E. Butler & Corn Rd. interchange several years ago. I had all the addresses and names of officials that needed to be contacted. I didn’t waste any time. I am thankful for their decision to abandon this project for now. Sometimes you can fight City Hall and win!”

God has blessed us in so many ways. We need to continue to be a blessing to all the folks who shop with us, as well as those people we purchased product from. Thank you for your prayers and support all these years!

Joel Ann Chandler

Here is the SCDOT response.

SCDOT South Carolina Department of Transportation

November 2, 2020
Ms. Joel Ann Chandler
25 Bridges Road
Mauldin, SC 29662

Re: Butler Road
Improvements Project, Greenville County, South Carolina SCOOT Project #P030553

Dear Ms. Chandler:

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is in receipt of your letter dated October 22, 2020 regarding the Butler Road Improvements Project. After we met on September 21, 2020 during the stakeholder meetings, we took your concerns into consideration. After further evaluation we have revised the proposed project limits with approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHW A). The termini for the proposed project are from Main Street (US 276) to the existing curb and gutter from the recent East Butler Road (S-107) Intersection Improvements project (SCOOT PIN 0038119), which ends approximately 400 feet south of the Corn/Bridges Roads intersection.

All four quadrants of the Corn/Bridges Road intersection with E. Butler Road were improved with the recent East Butler Road (S-107) Intersection Improvements project completed in 2014. The improvements included curb and gutter, sidewalk, new pavement, new right-turn lanes, and an improved turning radius at all four legs of the intersection. We understand that you and other properties along that intersection were affected by this project. Therefore, the proposed Butler Road Improvements project will end approximately 400 feet south of Corn/Bridges Roads and will not impact the Mauldin Open Air Market nor your property aq25 Bridges Road. A figure showing the new project limits is attached for your reference.

Should you have any additional questions regarding the project, please feel free to contact me at (803)737-1087 or via email at LucasCB@scdot.org.

South Carolina Department of Transportation
Casey Lucas, P.E.
SCDOT Project Manager

But What About Others on East Butler?

The Market is not SC-DOT’s only target. Quite a number of properties – homes and businesses – which are their owners’ livelihood, investment of their savings, and the center around which they build and spend their lives, could yet be wiped out of existence by SC-DOT’s rough-shod widening plans for East Butler. The result would be homes made more difficult for owners to access, yards made unsafe for children, and businesses hurt financially when customers cannot get to them – all due to SC-DOT’s changes to East Butler.

Many people use a road, but those who have homes and businesses on it should be SC-DOT’s primary concern – doubly so when there are reasonable alternatives.

Disregard for the Interests of Mauldin?

SC-DOT’s plans for widening East Butler are restricted by the Federally-mandated requirements that accompany the Federal funding to help pay for the changes to East Butler.

Those requirements are based on the proposed design of the changes received from SC-DOT. Not unreasonably, the Federal stipulations are intended to assure that the Federal funds are used as requested and not for an unauthorized purpose.

In other words, SC-DOT requested Federal funding for a project at odds with Mauldin City’s plans for its future and at odds with the interests of most of Mauldin’s residents and businesses. To change the project, SC-DOT would have to relinquish millions of Federally-funded dollars – effectively admitting that the SC-DOT engineers made a mistake.

The Open Air Market was endangered because SC-DOT wanted to widen East Butler Road to five lanes. SC-DOT says two westbound lanes are needed in front of the Market, even though those two lanes must merge into one lane not too much further on. As any driver knows, narrowing traffic from two lanes to one is a recipe for slowed traffic, frayed nerves, and accidents.

Having two lanes in front of the Market would not only prevent customers from going to and leaving from the market, but ignores these other factors: traffic coming from East Butler has already been merged into one lane, in front of Mauldin High School; traffic coming onto East Butler from Bridges Road is only a single left-turn lane; traffic coming onto East Butler from Corn Road is only a single right-turn lane; the traffic signal light controls which of these lanes can turn onto East Butler at all times.

There is no good reason to cripple the Market in order to add a lane on East Butler Road which would only disappear a short distance past the Market.

SC-DOT vs. Mauldin Homeowners

The Market would not be the only place impacted by a five-lane East Butler.

The homes on East Butler across from the Market already have driveways and front yards that are too steep, from the previous widenings of East Butler.

Does SC-DOT care about peoples’ lost property values as they take away even more precious feet from their property? Does SC-DOT care about how useful the reduced property size will be to its owners?

Does SC-DOT consider alternatives, such as routing traffic through Highway 417, in order to stop from diminishing what for most people is the biggest investment of their lives – the homes they live in?

Highway 417 is already exactly what SC-DOT wants: a broad, non-pedestrian, five-lane highway providing quick access between I-385 and downtown Mauldin. High-speed traffic should use Highway 417, not a low-speed, pedestrian-friendly, residential / small-storefronts road like East Butler.

SC-DOT’s plans for East Butler would seem to say that the road – or obtaining Federal funds – is more important than the people the road is intended to serve.

DOT vs. Mauldin Businesses

Mauldin’s classic small-town flavor, with small stores and shops lining a pedestrian-friendly, two- or three-lane East Butler Road is part of what makes Mauldin a great place to live.

Yet SC-DOT’s changes to East Butler would make it much harder for businesses on East Butler to survive, if it expropriates the already-limited parking areas in front of those shops. Without those businesses, what good is the road?

For those businesses to survive and to continue answering the needs of Mauldin residents, East Butler needs to retain its current design, with its emphasis on easy, low-speed, low-tension access. SC-DOT’s plans need to assure that will be the continued environment, for everyone’s benefit.

Disruptive and Destructive: SC-DOT vs Landowners

SC-DOT seems to have gone to extra lengths to make its proposed changes to the intersection of Bethel Drive and East Butler as problematic as possible. SC-DOT proposes moving that intersection down the road from its current location, and to do so in a way that seems deliberately intended to hurt business, homeowners, and traffic flow.

As the overhead photo of Bethel Drive shows:

The CVS store will lose its competitive advantage of being on a street-corner business. Worse, with the proposed design, the CVS parking lot will become an avenue for through-traffic, endangering the safety of CVS customers. The house on the corner of Fargo Street and Bethel Drive will be destroyed to make way for the new road.

The new intersection and location of Bethel Drive not only deprives a homeowner of a large swath of land through the middle of their property, but also splits the remaining land into two small pieces of far less value.

DOT vs. Traffic Flow That Already Works

Traffic through the intersection of East Butler Road, Corn Road, and Bridges Road flows smoothly. Although traffic congestion occurs at some hours of the day, widening East Butler to five lanes would not resolve the congestion. SC-DOT’s proposed changes would improve nobody’s life, would not increase safety, but would hurt the lives of many people.

Three much-better alternatives are available:

Make changes to Corn Road and the western part of Miller Road to encourage drivers to use that route to reach North Main Street, rather than using East Butler.

Change signage on I-385 to encourage traffic to use Highway 417, the very kind of wide, five-lane road that fits SC-DOT’s desire for a high-speed avenue into downtown Mauldin, rather than East Butler. Let East Butler serve the eastern part of Mauldin, the businesses near I-385, Mauldin High School, and the Mauldin Open Air Market.

Reduce the speed limit on East Butler, from the Market to the Mauldin Cultural Center, to 30 miles-per-hour. Discourage the use of East Butler as a through-traffic road. Encourage traffic to consider East Butler as a local-traffic thoroughfare, with signage on I-385 and elsewhere pointing to Highway 417 for quicker access to downtown Mauldin.

DOT vs. Mauldin’s Future

From its beginnings, Mauldin has been a crossroads. But Mauldin’s future lies in making it a walkable, pedestrian-friendly environment for its residents and for its businesses. That has been the City’s stated direction for decades. A pedestrian-friendly environment is what residents and businesses expect to see, want to see, and have made the foundation for their own plans.

No road of more than three lanes can be considered pedestrian-friendly. Nobody feels comfortable walking across so many lanes of traffic. Too many lanes is as much a barrier to pedestrian traffic as a brick wall.

SC-DOT is aware of the City’s plans, which are no different than those of any other City. Which is more important? A road for the sake of a road, or the people it should be designed to serve? SC-DOT’s latest plans show a callous disregard for Mauldin’s residents, businesses, and the City’s own plans for the City’s future. SC-DOT is clearly stuck in a “Mauldin is a crossroads” frame of mind.

The trend for cities nationwide is for a pedestrian-friendly environment. Why is SC-DOT clearly ignoring that goal in Mauldin’s case?

What’s Important? People and their lives, or SC-DOT’s road?

A road is not isolated; its use integrates with everything around it.

What good is a road, if it does not serve the people who would use it? What good is planning on SC-DOT’s part, if its only consideration is to build ever-wider roads, with no thought to what happens to the people, their homes, and their businesses along those roads?

Ribbons of pavement are there for a reason: to serve for the betterment of the lives of those who live on them. Otherwise, SC-DOT has failed in its perspective, and is not doing its part to better our lives.

While it looks like the Mauldin Open Air Market is out of SC-DOT’s clutches for now, the question of what happens to the other landowners along East Butler is still not decided.

SC-DOT plans a number of public hearings for their plans for East Butler, starting in December or early in 2021. More often than not, these hearings tend to be rubber-stamp affairs. Don’t let that happen.

If you live in Mauldin, SC-DOT’s plans for East Butler could have an impact for you, businesses you frequent, and residents you know. Don’t miss the chance to attend the public hearings. Let SC-DOT know loud-and-clear – and repeatedly – that, regardless of what they said or did to get Federal funding, the people and businesses of Mauldin come first, not SC-DOT’s changes to East Butler.■

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