Greenville County Council considers repealing Article 3.1. But what should take its place?

March 30th, 2021

Several years ago, Greenville County Council adopted Article 3.1, a local land development regulation setting out basic criteria for subdivision approval in Greenville County. According to the regulation, submitted developments may be approved if they meet all of the following: 

  • Adequate existing infrastructure and transportation systems exist to support the project; 
  • The project is compatible with the surrounding land use density; 
  • The project is compatible with the site’s environmental conditions, such as but not limited to, wetlands, flooding, endangered species and/or habitat, and historic sites and/or cemeteries.

From the start, Article 3.1 has been controversial and — most problematically — interpreted vastly differently by planning commissions for various developments. This has led to frustration among citizens, developers, and environmental groups — and even costly litigation.

Article 3.1 is far from perfect, to say the least. However, it is also the only meaningful barrier to rampant suburban-style sprawl into rural, mostly unzoned, undeveloped areas of Greenville County — areas with working farms and forests that lack infrastructure to support intense development. Revenues generated by residential developments in these areas rarely cover the costs to serve them – leaving taxpayers with a hefty bill. 

Recently, Council considered a proposal to repeal Article 3.1 as a "solution" to these problems. Fortunately, several Council members voiced concerns with simply striking 3.1 down and instead advised amending it.   

We agree that the county needs regulations that more effectively and predictably guide residential land development in unzoned areas. It is critical, however, that those regulations align with the future envisioned in the county's comprehensive plan — a plan created with input from hundreds of citizens and a wide variety of stakeholders, and adopted unanimously by Council. 

The comp plan includes a future land use map that categorizes the County into different “character areas” – designations describing what an area is envisioned to become as it grows including development intensity, transportation options, natural cover, etc. For example, areas designated as “Urban Core” — such as downtown Greenville — would allow for much greater development intensity than areas designated as “Suburban Neighborhood”. On the other end of the spectrums areas designated as Rural, Rural Living, and Rural Corridor envision very limited development intensity. 

According to the comp plan, approximately two-thirds of Greenville County is unzoned. In those areas, the county’s Land Development Regulations are the primary tool for guiding growth. We would like to see Council amend those regulations to accomplish the following:

  • Establish a maximum number of lots allowed for major residential subdivisions in unzoned areas according to recommended gross densities in the comp plan. This will ensure that the intensity of development in rural, unzoned areas of the county is appropriate for what those areas can support. Additionally, it will slow sprawl into undeveloped areas, protecting important farms and forestlands.
  • Incentivize conservation subdivisions in areas designated as Rural, Rural Living, Rural Corridor, and Suburban Edge in the comp plan. Conservation subdivision design allows development to proceed, while preserving sensitive natural resources and contiguous open space on a site. While each individual lot is smaller, residents of conservation subdivisions have access to large, contiguous tracts of open space. 
  • Strengthen requirements that ensure transportation infrastructure can adequately support new development. Greenville County roads have seen a major increase in traffic during the last decade. Many of these roads, however, were designed for farm-to-market travel — not the traffic loads they are carrying now. Continuing to build large residential subdivisions on roads struggling to meet current demand — without requiring investments by developers for road upgrades — is short sighted and fiscally unwise. 

If you would also like to see these amendments to the county’s regulations, contact your Council representative today to let them know! You can find county council member contact information here. Don't know who represents you? Enter your address here to find out.

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