Aiken residents protest new development

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April 25, 2007

AIKEN, S.C.---It's a battle of boundaries in Aiken, where a group of homeowners have picketed for six days. They say a developer is overbuilding on Douglas Drive.

On one side of the street are seven homes; on the other, acres and acres of trees.

That's where new homes are planned, and that's where the controversy begins.

"A developer has come onto our street," said John Kelly, a Douglas Drive resident. "He's overbuilding. He putting twelve houses in where seven are."

Across from seven homes, developer Bill Gingrey plans to build twelve.

Gingrey's homes are just 15 feet apart; the ones there now are 50. Gingrey's are 70 feet wide; the others, 100.

Protesters say the two sides of the street just won't match up.

"It almost would look like row homes, duplexes you know? It has that sort of look to it," Kelly said.

Douglas Drive homeowners are also quoting local ecologist Lehr Bresbin who said, "Next to Hitchcock Woods and the Carolina bay, this property is the third most ecological important property in Aiken."

"As a matter of fact, it is a wetland," said Douglas Drive resident Don Swindler.

After the sixth day of picketing, News 12 spoke with Bill Gingrey on the phone. He told us he doesn't own the property anymore. He said he sold it to an unidentified builder.

We also spoke with city councilman Don Sprawls. He calls Gingrey a "replicable builder" and said that "everything he has done has been above board".

Mr. Gingrey is no stranger to this neighborhood. In fact, 22 years ago, he built six homes here--one of which now belongs to John Kelly.

"I put out my hand in friendship, he rebuked it, so he doesn't want to meet with us," Kelly said of Gingrey.

Bill Gingrey calls the protesting "pathetic" and not worth our attention. He also says this is all just a personal attack against him.

Aiken City Council approved Gingrey's purchase of that property, and they also rezoned it for him.

His vision has been scaled back significantly. He originally wanted to build 30 homes. Now, it's just 12.

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