July 13th, 2017
By Shelley Robbins
Update 12/19/17 - This tract of property has been permanently protected! Upstate Forever was instrumental in working with the community and the owners of the proposed development site to realize a conservation outcome for this important tract of land at the base of Glassy Mountain, a Pickens County icon. Read more
Upstate Forever filed an appeal to have the plan for a development near Glassy Mountain remanded back to the Pickens County Planning Commission. The proposed development— a subdivision of 254 homes on 183 acres to be called the Summit at Glassy — has been the subject of local outcry since it was first made public.
Glassy Mountain* is an isolated mountain that rises abruptly from a level surrounding plain, a geologic formation known as a “monadnock.” SCDNR acquired the mountain in 1990 and created the 65-acre Glassy Mountain Heritage Preserve to protect one of the few monadnocks in SC. This unusual land form provides wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and is home to several rare plant species. Public access has been created on top of the monadnock and a trail is managed by DNR. Here are links to the Glassy Mountain monadnock and the Glassy Mountain Heritage Preserve.
*Note that this is the Glassy Mountain in Pickens County and not the mountain of the same name in Greenville County.
Glassy Mountain is surrounded by several large, privately-owned and mostly undeveloped tracts that contribute significantly to the protection of the sensitive ecosystem that surrounds it and contribute to the viewshed. One of the tracts is slated for the development of 254 homes on 183 acres, a subdivision that will be called the Summit at Glassy. Below is a rendering of the development’s location and scale.
The proposed development was unanimously approved by the Pickens County Planning Commission on Monday, June 12th. The Planning Commission stated that they had no grounds to oppose the development based on their current ordinances. There were 175 people at the meeting and only one person spoke in favor of the proposal. Those opposed were significantly restricted. The Commission only allowed a handful of citizens to speak at the meeting, although many signed up in advance. Adjacent impacted landowners were not given the opportunity to speak at all. (Upstate Forever Executive Director Andrea Cooper was given the opportunity to speak, and you can read her comments here.)
There was a high level of outrage and concern amongst those in attendance regarding the approval of this large scale development abutting this Pickens icon. The development would forever change the character of the this special monadnock and the rural area surrounding it. What’s more, it would set the precedent for other large-scale developments at its base.
Upstate Forever typically doesn’t get involved at the individual development level but it is the staff’s opinion that this situation is warranted. We have filed an appeal and a request for pre-litigation mediation in Pickens County circuit court. The appeal was filed in conjunction with adjacent landowners Shelly Smith and Doug Hinkle. Upstate Forever, Smith and Hinkle are represented by J.J. Andrighetti of the Greenville law firm Kehl Culbertson Andrighetti LLC.
The appeal is based on the Commission’s failure to consider several issues, including inadequate access roads. The road issue alone should have killed this project. In order to meet the standards set out in the county’s own ordinance, either the developer or the taxpayers will have to spend a great deal of money to widen the two proposed access roads, North Glassy Mountain Road and Glassy Mountain Church Road. If the taxpayers foot that bill, they will be subsidizing the profits of a private developer with no return on their investment.
Plus, widening either of those roads will completely change the character and development pattern in that community and based on the massive public outcry against this development, this is the last thing the community wants.
In addition to the issue of inadequate access roads, this area is not identified as a target for growth in Pickens County’s Comprehensive Plan, which articulates the citizens’ vision for their community. Rather, the area is designated to remain a combination of farmland and moderate to large lot residential. A gated community with 254 homesites is not consistent with what the citizens want.
We stand a strong chance of having this proposal remanded back to the Pickens County Planning Commission for closer scrutiny and more public input. Our goal is to have the Planning Commission re-evaluate the project in light of this additional information. Unfortunately, a legal challenge is the only mechanism available to move us toward that goal. We applaud the county staff and their efforts to date, and we look forward to resolving this issue in a manner satisfactory to all parties while protecting the rural character of the area and the treasure that is the Glassy Mountain Heritage Trust Preserve.
To mount this appeal, Upstate Forever needs to raise funds as quickly as possible. These funds will allow attorneys working in the community’s behalf to file necessary legal briefs and participate in meetings to articulate our position. They will also allow Upstate Forever staff to coordinate community support and do the ongoing research necessary to continue with a well-informed endeavor.
Ultimately, your support directly gives all of us the best chance for a positive outcome in this important effort. Please donate what you can and help us maintain the integrity of this Pickens County icon.
For more information, contact Shelley Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org