Mauldin seeks to limit new thrift shops, delaying planned new ReStore in former Bi-Lo site | Greenville Business

A proposed ordinance in Mauldin has delayed, and potentially imperiled, Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County’s plans to convert a former Bi-Lo into a large ReStore thrift shop.

At its July meeting, City Council unanimously passed a resolution instructing the planning commission to consider limiting the number of secondhand stores that could operate in the city and to hold a public hearing on the subject.

“Additional thrift stores in the City of Mauldin may be inconsistent with the objectives of the Zoning Ordinance to protect the quality and appearance of the properties in commercial zoning districts,” the resolution reads. 

Habitat for Humanity applied for a business license Aug. 4 with the intention of leasing the former grocery store on West Butler Road, but was denied in light of the pending regulation.

The first draft of the ordinance would have limited the number of thrift stores and consignment shops allowed in the city by requiring any new such business to be at least 200 feet away from the nearest residential property line and mandating they be in a multi-tenant shopping center. It also imposed rules prohibiting outdoor donations, drop off bins and vehicle lines blocking traffic and parking areas, as well as requiring certain signage.

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The planning commission hosted a public hearing on the potential rule change Aug. 24 during which representatives from Habitat voiced strong opposition to the ordinance.

During that hearing, a representative for the owner of the property where the former Bi-Lo sits said they had sought multiple other grocers to move into the location but could not find any that were interested. The Bi-Lo closed earlier this year when the supermarket’s parent company discontinued the brand.

Following the Aug. 24 hearing, the planning commission recommended City Council enact a version of the ordinance that would not include the 200-foot requirement, nor the multi-tenant rule, which would allow Habitat for Humanity to move into the former grocery store. 

But City Council could still choose to include those stipulations in the final rule. Mayor Terry Merritt said he wouldn’t support an ordinance that permitted ReStore or other thrift shops to open there.

“If that change would allow (the new ReStore), I wouldn’t be happy with it,” he said.

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Merritt said more secondhand stores are inconsistent with council’s vision for the future, particularly as the first phase of the new city center project gets underway. The city has had issues with the appearance of consignment shops in the past, Merritt said, and wants to redevelop and modernize several of the older shopping centers around Mauldin.

The next step for the ordinance will be the September meeting of the Economic Planning and Development Committee.

Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County CEO Monroe Free, who spoke against the ordinance at the Aug. 24 planning commission meeting, said his organization has been planning an expansion in the Golden Strip for several years and saw an opportunity when the Bi-Lo shut down earlier this year.

While he opposed the restrictions that would prevent Habitat from opening the new ReStore, he said he agrees with the other regulations included in the ordinance and that Greenville County’s two other ReStore facilities on Wade Hampton Boulevard and Woodruff Road already comply with those standards.

“If you go look at our stores, they’re great retail operations,” he said. “They’re clean, they present nicely, our signage is professional. We try to do things in ways that are good for the communities we’re in.”

A third of Habitat’s revenue comes from its ReStore locations, Free said, and it needs to expand to keep up with the demand of donations and shoppers.

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“Greenville County has an affordable housing crisis,” Free said. “For the city of Mauldin to come out and take a position that hurts an organization that’s one of the leaders in affordable housing, and take a stand against them to prevent them from growing their ability to build more affordable housing, that just kind of baffles me.”

There are currently six resale stores operating in Mauldin. All but the Miracle Hill thrift store would be exempt from this rule as “antique stores” or “boutique consignment shops.” Miracle Hill’s store, located on West Butler Road near the disused Bi-Lo, would be grandfathered in.

Free said blocking thrift stores from setting up shop in Mauldin could prevent useful, successful businesses from locating there in the future. He was encouraged that the planning commission voiced support for his position, he said, and that he and other Habitat for Humanity representatives will be at the next Economic Planning and Development Committee meeting.

Follow Conor Hughes on Twitter at @ConorJHughes.

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