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‘Shame on you’: City approves housing development despite resident opposition

Caitlyn Tai
An estimated 300 people attended Clemson City Council for the second reading of the Clemson Hub ordinance.

Upon hearing Clemson City Council had approved the Clemson Hub project on Keowee Trail, Clemson residents exclaimed, “Shame on you!” and stormed out of City Hall during the development’s second reading at a city council meeting on Monday.

Attorney Rivers S. Stilwell, who represents Keowee Trail and the Smith family in the pending $5.25 million lawsuit against the city, attended the meeting.

“It’s just been a long time coming. It was unfortunately framed last night as something that was being rushed and had not been carefully considered. If you look at the lawsuit, there’s a history of my client’s property since 2016,” Stilwell told The Tiger in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Each council member voted the same as they did in the first reading of the development at a City Council meeting on April 1. Mayor Robert Halfacre and council members John Fulmer, Bob Brookover and John Ducworth voted in favor of the development, while council members Lillian Boatwright, Catherine Watt and Alesia Smith voted against the development.

In support of his yes vote, Brookover said that the city will have complete control over the design of Clemson Hub and that the project as a planned development district is better than a straight zoning development, regardless of any lawsuit. Though this argument caused angry exclamations from the audience, Brookover continued to defend his decision.

“The park can stay exactly the same if that’s what the public wants. When you say no, you have to be careful what you’re saying no to,” Brookover said during the meeting.

Brookover referred to “saying no” because the city rejected several public development proposals from Keowee Trail for developing the land in the past, such as a five-story hotel and other student and residential housing developments.

Council members and residents presented different views regarding the threat of the lawsuit, which began in 2021 when Keowee Trail and the Smith family accused the city of Clemson of preventing them from developing the 3.77-acre land parcel on Keowee Trail. The plaintiff claimed that this delay is causing the property’s value to decrease.

“Our residents know what’s at stake and are telling us how they feel… we are elected by these individuals,” Smith said during the meeting.

City Administrator Andy Blondeau brought up that even though the $5.25 million lawsuit would not bankrupt the city, as stated by council member Catherine Watt, the city would be reduced to only providing basic services. Additionally, the bond rating would decrease, and new optional projects, such as paving and affordable housing, would be canceled or postponed.

“It will be tense with a portion of the population, but when you sign up for this, you sign up to make hard decisions,” Brookover told The Tiger regarding future relationships with residents.

Brookover commented at the April 1 meeting that the number and age demographic of residents in attendance weren’t reflective of Clemson’s population of 17,843, according to the United States census recorded on July 1, 2022.

As a response, nearly 300 residents attended the meeting on Monday, double the number that attended the meeting on April 1. Elderly residents, middle-aged parents, young children and Clemson University students made up the group.

“Is this enough people? Are we all too old?” One resident asked the council during public comment.

Many residents brought up the same concerns they expressed at the April 1 meeting, including increased traffic congestion on U.S. Route 123, the destruction of Abernathy Park, detrimental effects on infrastructure, taxes and pollution and the vast size of the seven-story building.

“The size of the development is driven by the size of the demand for student housing… It’s a nationwide trend that major universities are getting out of the student housing business and that the private sector is the one that has to provide those housing options,” Keowee Trail attorney Stilwell told The Tiger.

Another resident stated that she gathered students’ thoughts on the development, all of whom said that they cannot afford luxury apartments and need reasonable housing.

“The market told us that the UptownNEXT development with all of that property development was not something that can be done in any kind of near timeframe … Core was the only real option that showed up that could actually develop this property with any resemblance to what the UptownNEXT drawing was,” Stilwell said.

Residents weren’t swayed by the $1 million donation for the improvement of Abernathy Park that developer Core Spaces has offered the city, either.

“(Abernathy Park) doesn’t need a million-dollar facelift,” one resident told the council.

Attorney Kathleen McDaniel has been hired by two Clemson residents to sue the city for the Clemson Hub project in another sign of resident opposition to the development.

“I understand that you are currently facing litigation from the developer. All of the information for that lawsuit is available at so anyone in the public can read what has been filed. What you will see is that there’s hardly anything in that file other than a 10-status report that says that a settlement is pending a decision by this body. That, to me, implies that a developer is using that lawsuit as leverage against this body to get what they want. We ask you to defer the second and final reading so there can be more input… This project needs more thought, more preparation, to do what’s right for not only my clients but the entire city,” McDaniel stated during the meeting.

Stilwell emphasized that his clients, the Smith family and Keowee Trail, did not want to be in litigation and that they “are all Clemson through and through.”

“It was a very unfortunate set of circumstances. But we’re hopeful now that the solution last night is a good one,” Stilwell told The Tiger in a phone interview.

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Kat Pugh
Kat Pugh, Asst. News Editor
Caitlyn Tai, Senior Photographer
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    Nancy SpitlerApr 18, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    Nothing about the fact that Keowee Trail llcc, which housing the city, includes President Clements’ in-laws? Profiting off the university refusing to build more student housing?