Airport drive-in movie theater at a standstill

Published: Apr. 6, 2015 at 3:24 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2015 at 4:23 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A movie drive-in that was supposed to be up and running by November 2014 is still a ways from opening.

The drive-in theater would be off 1420 Old Dunbar Road, just minutes from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. There are only two open drive-in movie theaters still open in the state, and there's no question it's a declining business. But the owner, Joe Barth, wants to bring the family-friendly fun closer to the urban core of the state. It's taken much longer, however, than he expected.

"I just know that drive-ins are a great place for families to get together and watch movies and felt like Columbia deserved a drive-in movie theater," Barth said.

But what started out as "easy" turned into a process. Barth said he was told by Lexington County Councilman Todd Cullum that as long as they had the zoning properly done, everything else would go quickly. That was about 9 months ago. Since then Barth has run into obstacles with the state Department of Transportation, Lexington County's Storm Water Management, and the fire marshal to name a few.

Barth says Storm Water Management is saying there has to be a certain amount of water storage because of the size of the property.

We spoke with SCDOT, who says they have not received an official "Application for Encroachment Permit." Barth says that's because he doesn't agree with some of the permits, including things such as a traffic study. He says he's had issues with Storm Water Management and Lexington County as well. However, we spoke with the county administrator Joe Mergo, and he says that's not the case.

"The proposed drive-in movie development being proposed could be a welcome development opportunity for our county. However, Lexington County has not received the required information necessary from the developer in order to move the project forward," Mergo said.

"They expect us to basically have as much water storage on the property as a Walmart. And to me, it's common sense because we're actually pulling up over four acres of concrete and asphalt," Barth said

Mergo said, however, they are not requiring any more of Barth than they do of any other person who develops property. Barth said he doesn't necessarily agree with a lot of the ordinances but he says the overwhelming support from the community keeps him wanting to keep going.

"I guarantee it'll be a fantastic place for families," Barth said.

Barth said he has contacted the Traffic Impact Study officials to try and keep the project moving. He said he's still waiting to hear back from Storm Water Management to see if they'll accept what he is proposing. But at this point, until the county receives official proposals for the project, it is at a standstill for the time being.

There is one thing, though, that everyone seems to be in agreement about. Having a drive-in movie theater in the area would be great for development of the county and for the people living in the Midlands.

"The buzz in the town was just tremendous. People really like the idea of bringing something there with a family atmosphere and a drive-in movie theater was going to be great coming to right there. It's going to be a great economic input for the town," South Congaree town Councilman Jerry Smith said.

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