Every once in a while, an Aiken County resident will receive notification that the road they live on will be renamed.
The idea may cause some residents a little heartburn, and they may not initially understand the reason behind the renaming. But there are several factors that contribute to an address change, which most importantly is to ensure emergency responders can easily locate someone in need of help.
County planning officials say they try to make the process as accommodating as possible, and their main goal is safety first.
Recent road name change proposal
A portion of Levels Church Road is currently in the process of being renamed. Amy Stone lives in the area of the proposed change; the road name was initially going to change to Zeus Drive. She learned about it after seeing a sign near her property about an upcoming Planning Commission meeting.
Stone attended the meeting held in January and spoke on behalf of her neighbors who were not too happy with the idea.
Commissioners turned down the name change proposal after hearing Stone's concerns.
Stone said after the meeting, members of the Planning Department reached out to her in efforts to find some kind of compromise.
Residents preferred Old Levels Church Road but planning officials were concerned that could be confused with another road named Old Levels Trail, said Stone.
Now, the proposal is to change the name of her portion of the road to Levels Church Road West.
“It's not a huge change. It's still going to be somewhat of an issue but not as much,” Stone said. “They (the Planning Department) are trying to be as accommodating as possible.”
Stone said she's now more concerned with the fact that the house numbers on her stretch of road will also be changed as they're not all in numerical order.
The Planning Department has been very helpful during the process but she wishes the other side of the road was renamed, as there is only a church and one mobile home. There are four residences and two businesses on Stone's side of the road that will receive a change in address, said Stone.
Officials said the decision to not rename the other side of the road was based on the fact that Levels Baptist Church is located on that end. They felt that since the church's name was related to the road itself, it wouldn't be a good idea to rename that portion of Levels Church Road.
Why address changes?
The reason for the change was that the road once ran all the way through but now dead ends at East Pine Log Road. Motorists can get onto the remaining portion of Levels Church Road by driving a few hundred feet down East Pine Log. E911 and GIS Coordinator Cathy Randall said that could easily confuse someone who isn't familiar with the area.
South Carolina permitted local governments to standardize addressing for the E911 system in 1991. The law states that new street names must not duplicate or be similar to an existing street name in the local government's geographic area. Existing duplicate street names must be also changed as necessary by the local government.
Randall said the Planning Department doesn't go looking for roads that possibly need a name changed. Road name changes are usually complaint-based. Sometimes the department hears from an emergency responder who noticed a problem or when a resident comes in for a permit, an issue with an address may be discovered.
The main goal of these address changes is to make sure that EMS, firefighters or law enforcement can easily locate someone in the event of an emergency, Randall said.
And it's not always just the road name but also the house number. Randall said even numbers are supposed to be on the right side of the road and odds are on the left. She said all emergency responders are aware of that system, and if they aren't in that order, that could cause confusion and a loss of precious seconds amidst a crisis.
In 2011, Aiken County E911 found itself readdressing more than 250 parcels Atomic Road because the numbers were scattered and out of order.
The County does try to compromise with residents to the best of its ability during the road name change process, Randall said.
“We always try to not upset as many residents as possible,” Randall said. “We do our best to notify everyone and we give them ample time to speak with us.”
If an address is going to be changed, the County does notify the post office, and the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will waive the fee to receive a new driver's license.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard. and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.