FLAT ROCK — Why did the shopper cross the road? To check out an art gallery across from the Wrinkled Egg and Hand in Hand stores.
That could be the situation in Flat Rock, which prides itself on careful planning of its compact row of retail stores sometimes called Little Rainbow Row.
The Village Council next week will hold a public hearing on a zoning request that would for the first time expand commercial use across Greenville Highway. A Charleston couple with deep roots in historic Flat Rock has applied for the rezoning to allow the use of the historic Andrews house on the west side of Greenville Highway as a residence and art gallery.
Fred Le Clercq and his wife, Angie, are both retired from the faculty at the University of Tennessee, Fred as a law professor and Angie as head of the undergraduate library. The owners of Alkyon Arts and Antiques in Charleston, they want to open a similar gallery in the house at 2731 Greenville Highway and also live there when they are in Flat Rock.
Angie Le Clercq's great-grandparents in 1917 built "High Hills," a cottage next to Highland Lake. Fred Le Clercq's family on his mother's side, the Sieglings, for many years owned Sans Souci, which has also been called the Saluda Cottages and most recently known as the Cam Boyd family home.
The couple, who originally bought property in Kenmure and own a summer cottage at Lake Summit, have restored historic homes in both Knoxville, Tenn., and Charleston. Fred Le Clercq served on the Historic Flat Rock Board for two terms. Adaptive reuse of the Andrews house, they said, is compatible with Little Rainbow Row across the highway.
"Indeed, the Andrews house has been commercialized for a very long time," Le Clercq said in a six-page letter to the town. "Fifty years ago, my wife, Angie, took riding lessons in the summers as a young girl from the stable next door to the Andrews house."
The house, which dates to about 1885, was the residence of Mitch Andrews and his son, James, who ran a livery stable next door until 1959, according to Historic Flat Rock.
A site plan shows a total of eight parking spaces on either side of the house plus a handicapped space next to the house. "The proposed parking is designed to change the existing site as little as possible," Le Clercq said.
The Le Clercqs point out that they have been longtime summer residents and longtime advocates for preservation with a track record of successful restoration projects. "There is no surer test of how applicants are likely to conserve and enhance the Andrews house than to look to their successes in preserving for posterity their residences" in Knoxville, Charleston and Lake Summit.
Village Council heard about the application earlier this month but took no action. Board members expressed concern about the traffic. The town has in the past appealed to the N.C. Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit through the retail section and to allow a crosswalk. The town will make the request again, though "these are unlikely to be accepted by DOT."
Mayor pro tem Nick Weedman said this week, though, that town officials have made the case again to DOT people, and "NCDOT said they would take a look more closely and see if they can do something there."
The precedent of crossing road concerns Weedman.
"My personal view is I hate to see us expand the limited commercial zoned area in the village but I sympathize with the need of these older properties to do adaptive reuse, to put them in doctor's offices or some other use that's not hard-core commercial. I'm afraid we're going to set a precedent and that whole side of the street could be one application after another."
The town will hold a public hearing on the application on Monday.
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