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February 28th, 2019
By Lisa Hallo
You've probably heard that Greenville County has started the process to update their comprehensive plan, a "blueprint" that should represent a shared vision for the community’s future. So it's a great time to talk about land use and how it impacts our lives.
At Upstate Forever, we are working to ensure that land use policies are in place that support smart, balanced growth as Greenville's population increases rapidly. Here are six priorities we're advocating for in 2019.
1) Revamp zoning and other land development regulations immediately following plan adoption in Greenville County and its municipalities.
Greenville County and its municipalities have adopted many plans over the years, but those plans have rarely been followed by holistic policy action, especially as related to land use and infrastructure investment. Once plans are adopted, current zoning and land development regulations must be amended to reflect the plan’s future land use map, and public infrastructure investments should be aligned with plan priorities.
2) Identify the county’s most environmentally critical lands – as well as other “special places” necessary to maintaining the county’s unique character – and the best strategies to protect those assets.
There are some places that are so unique, beautiful, and necessary for maintaining an area’s authentic character that their “highest and best use” is truly in their natural state. Local governments can – and should – play a key role in identifying and protecting such critical natural assets.
3) Protect rural areas and ensure fiscally sustainable growth by promoting compact development where existing infrastructure can support it and discouraging it where infrastructure is limited.
The Upstate’s urban footprint is expected to double by 2040. Our current sprawling growth pattern is exorbitantly expensive to serve, with revenues generated from new development failing to keep pace with the costs to serve it. Sewer and water providers should not have to guess – nor should the market solely dictate – where to extend new services. Rather, the community’s comprehensive plan – and specifically its future land use map – should clearly communicate preferred locations for well-planned, compact development, key opportunities for infill and community revitalization, and areas where rural and productive farmlands should be protected.
4) Remove barriers to diverse housing choices and expand opportunities for walkable, urban neighborhood living at a range of price points.
Allowing and encouraging a range of home types – accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes, quads, etc. – within new and established single-family neighborhoods where infrastructure can support it will expand housing choices, build pockets of “gentle density” that fit within the character of existing communities, and support expanded mobility options.
5) Identify appropriate locations to encourage and invest in Pedestrian & Transit-Oriented Development (PTOD) nodes.
PTOD – at a scale appropriate for Greenville County – is critical for a more robust future transit system to function efficiently. Such mixed-use, compact development generates property tax revenue and uses land much more efficiently than lower-density patterns of development. Within such development “nodes”, regulations should encourage mixed-use, mixed-income development and prioritize walking, biking, and transit over personal vehicular travel.
6) Improve connectivity for all travelers.
Street connectivity requirements in new developments must be strengthened. Dead end streets should be discouraged unless topography requires it. This connectivity provides travelers with expanded and more direct route options -- allowing for more efficient transit operations and mitigating traffic congestion. On the other hand, when neighborhoods are designed with only one way in and out, all cars must use the same collector road to reach all destinations -- inevitably leading to traffic congestion -- even in once rural areas.
Lisa Hallo is the Land Policy Director at Upstate Forever and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.