What we would like to see in Greenville's Development Code

October 4th, 2021

The City of Greenville has launched a once-in-a-decade process to overhaul their zoning and land development regulations — the primary tools determining how and where growth takes place within City limits. The new GVL Development Code (which will include zoning and land development regulations) will largely decide whether — and to what degree — the City achieves the bold outcomes identified in GVL2040, the comprehensive plan adopted unanimously by City Council in 2021.

One thing is for sure — if the City of Greenville wants to achieve the goals it set out in GVL 2040, it needs a new way of growing, as the plan itself acknowledges: 

“Accomplishing goals for continued growth while making significant progress on Greenville’s priorities will not be possible if historical patterns of growth and development are continued.” Page 43, GVL2040 Comprehensive Plan for Greenville, SC

What are GVL2040’s goals?

GVL2040’s desired outcomes are interdependent and rely on one another to ensure measurable progress on three priority issues:

  • Green Space & Environment: To preserve as much as 35% of remaining vacant land as open space or parkland to bolster quality of life and protect environmental assets.
  • Affordable Housing: To make at least 10% of all new housing units affordable.
  • Transportation & Mobility: To make alternative forms of mobility more accessible and appealing to reduce reliance on cars. 

GVL2040 provides a blueprint for shaping growth to make these outcomes possible — a new way of growing that directs significant development to nodes and corridors and requires a different urban form than what we see in the City today. However, it is the GVL Development Code that will take that “blueprint” and make it a reality through updates and changes to existing development codes. 

What would UF like to see in the GVL Development Code?

Recognizing how critical the new Code will be in realizing the goals of GVL 2040, Upstate Forever will be advocating for the key policy changes below throughout the rewrite process: 

The GVL Development Code should reflect GVL2040’s core values, priorities, and outcomes.
A new Code is vital for achieving GVL 2040’s ambitious desired outcomes related to open space, affordable housing, and mobility. It is also critical for ensuring that the community grows in alignment with its stated core values – inclusivity among them. Adopting such a code will require a willingness from residents and elected leaders to shift away from historical patterns of growth that have led to inequities across the community. The new Code represents a major opportunity to begin rectifying injustices caused by past policy decisions and improve quality of life for all residents. 

The City should focus growth in nodes and key corridors. 
GVL2040 recommends directing future growth to compact, walkable activity centers (aka “nodes”), which include residential, employment, retail, and transit, and are located along corridors designed to support mobility choices (aka “complete streets”). Carefully designing nodes to accommodate growth vertically (versus sprawling outward) at a sensible scale for a mid-sized city like Greenville and prioritizing pedestrian versus car travel within those areas is fundamental to achieving  GVL 2040’s goals.

The City must remove regulatory barriers to allow “missing middle” home types within existing walkable neighborhoods outside nodes and corridors to address gaps in housing stock, expand housing choices, and create more inclusive neighborhoods. 
Missing Middle Housing (MMH) is house-scale buildings with multiple units in walkable neighborhoods – and includes building types such as accessory dwelling units (granny flats), duplexes, triplexes, bungalow courts, and mansion apartments. MMH types expand the range of housing choices, build pockets of “gentle density” that can better support transit, and help create more inclusive neighborhoods. Additionally, built to appear from the outside like a traditional single-detached home, MMH fits well within nearly all walkable residential areas.

The City should adopt regulations and design standards that support a highly connected transportation system that offers residents and visitors safe, convenient, and efficient mobility options. 
A well-functioning urban transportation system should provide safe and convenient choices for all travelers. It should connect neighborhoods to each other and residents to local destinations such as schools, parks, and shopping areas. It should prioritize people over cars, ensure urban street patterns (i.e. shorter blocks, grid pattern, etc.), and reduce emphasis on parking requirements. Such a system expands mobility options and results in more efficient municipal service delivery, better air quality, and reduced travel times for all, including emergency responders.

Would you like to stay up-to-date on the GVL Development Code process and receive the latest news in your inbox? Visit upstateforever.org/email to join our Greenville County Land Planning & Policy Issues email list.

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