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September 2nd, 2020
By Lisa Hallo
Greenville County Council’s Planning & Development Committee recently took up a proposed ordinance to amend the county's Land Development Regulations to guide residential development in the county’s most rural areas in accordance with the comprehensive plan. The plan was adopted unanimously by County Council earlier this year.
The ordinance represents an opportunity to take an important step towards implementing the widely supported comp plan vision. It also represents a proactive, fiscally responsible strategy to manage future growth.
Below are our thoughts regarding the ordinance as it stands now:
It is an important step towards implementing the comp plan vision
Hundreds of Greenville County citizens participated in the county’s comprehensive planning process, and citizen groups in both north and south Greenville have expressed support for the ordinance.
Residents are understandably frustrated when plans sit on a shelf. They are also frustrated when regulations result in a far different outcome than envisioned in adopted community plans. The comp plan states that once adopted it “will serve as the foundation for future land use and development regulations.”
The strength of the ordinance is its close alignment with priority goals and objectives identified by residents and outlined in the plan. County staff did an admirable job ensuring ample community engagement in the planning process, resulting in a plan that stakeholders and citizens with wide-ranging viewpoints strongly support and expect to see implemented.
Incremental in its approach
The ordinance does not apply to industrial or commercial development. In fact, it could have the impact of protecting land for future industrial growth by reducing pressure from the leap-frog subdivisions regularly being proposed in the county's unzoned areas during the past several years.
Additionally, arguments that this will negatively impact affordable housing seem disingenuous. The ideal location for affordable housing is close to job centers, reliable transit, and access to services. This ordinance applies to the very most rural areas of Greenville County, where such services and opportunities are quite limited.
A fiscally responsible choice for the community
Questions have been raised about how this would affect an individual property owner’s ability to make a profit on developing their land. That is an important question, however, another critical consideration is how land development policies impact the broader community – and their pocket books.
The greatest development pressure on rural, unzoned lands is suburban-style, leap-frog residential development comprising 1-3 homes/acre. Such development is exorbitantly expensive to serve. In fact, a study several years ago highlighted that revenues generated from such development typically fail to cover even half of the costs to serve it with sewer, water, roads, etc. Allowing this development pattern to continue is not in the best interests of taxpayers.
As an example, roads in rural areas are typically ill equipped to handle suburban-style residential growth. It is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars to allow such development to continue. Doing so ultimately forces the county into needing to pour millions of public dollars into road-widening projects to handle increased traffic from sprawling residential development.
The vision set forward in the county comprehensive plan steers future development to already urbanized areas where infrastructure and services can support it. Adopting this ordinance would be a step towards implementing that more fiscally responsible future.
For more information, contact Lisa Hallo, Upstate Forever's Land Planning & Policy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org