Charleston's Municipal Planning Commission recommended approval Wednesday of a re-zoning on the West Side that would allow an "auto and equipment pawn business" along Railroad Avenue near Washington Street West.Dustin O'Dell, one of the partners in the proposed business along with John Harrison and Scott McMillan, said the business would focus on automobiles, all-terrain vehicles, boats and similar equipment, rather than other items associated with traditional pawn shops. "Anything with a title, basically," Harrison said. O'Dell, who said his grandfather built the building at 500 Washington St. W. in which the business would be housed, said he believes his business will be positive for the neighborhood. "We think we can be a productive asset to the West Side," he said, later adding. "I really believe that this business is going to be nothing but prosperous for the West Side." O'Dell said he previously co-owned a family pawn business with his aunt, but has sold his share. He said he has a non-compete agreement with her, further ensuring his business would only concentrate on big items like automobiles. "We've taken great pride to be as honest as possible in any business we've ever done," he said of past experience in business. O'Dell and his business partners need the zoning of the property changed to open up shop, which is why they were before the planning commission. Currently, the parcel is zoned as CVD, or "Corridor Village District," a zoning type generally unique to Washington Street on the East End and West Side, City Planning Director Dan Vriendt said. However, to allow O'Dell's proposed business, the parcel must be rezoned to a C-10, or "general commercial" district.
Vriendt said the re-zoning fit with Charleston's Imagine Charleston comprehensive plan passed last summer. However, two members of the planning commission voted against the proposal - West Side Main Street Board President Adam Krason and the Rev. Braxton Broady. Krason expressed concern that the designation of a C-10 district could allow other uses he wouldn't want to see on that property. C-10 districts are wide-reaching, including such uses as grocery stores, retail stores and restaurants, but also fullfledged pawn shops and firearm sales establishments - the latter two of which Krason didn't want to see in the location in question. However, Krason said the positive side would be that the space would be used for a retail purpose. The most recent use of the building was a storage area for a portable toilet business.
Krason also said O'Dell and his partners asked for the endorsement of West Side Main Street, but that agency declined to do so, taking no position on the matter. "It's a challenging decision for me personally," he said. Because the Municipal Planning Commission recommended approval of the re-zoning, the proposal must be passed by city council's Planning Committee and the full city council before the property is officially re-zoned.