After months of debate and public outcry, Greenville County Council flipped on earlier plans for the replacement of the county’s controversial land development regulations.
The 8-4 vote during the Tuesday, July 20 meeting still means that council will move forward with plans to replace its current land development regulations but what that replacement looks like will now be decidedly different from an earlier version passed.
The issue at hand is an article of the county’s land development regulations known as Article 3.1, which governs how developments can be built on the roughly 500,000 acres of unzoned land within the county.
That article has been the subject of six lawsuits filed on behalf of developers, who sought to overturn it entirely on the grounds that it is unconstitutionally vague.
Article 3.1 states that potential developments must meet the following rules:
- Adequate existing infrastructure and transportation systems must exist to support the project.
- The project must be compatible with the surrounding land-use density.
- The project must be 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.
In early spring, when council began the process of replacing the article with a more legally-durable version, it instigated a tug-of-war between the rights of individual property owners and the rights of a community to protect itself from unwanted development.
County staff had already issued a proposal for a replacement to Article 3.1 that mandated developments contain 40% of open space, but Councilman Mike Barnes proposed an amendment to that proposal during an ad hoc committee meeting last spring that would lower that requirement to 30% and also allow developers to include swimming pools, subdivision streets, clubhouses and other amenities as “open space.”
Councilman Joe Dill , who represents a district in Northern Greenville that contains the largest swath of unzoned land in the county, argued that the amended plans would allow developers to do “most anything they wanted” and that it would “destroy my community.”
Dill argued council should return to the original staff plan.
“We would stop this right now and fix this things … and go back to the staff’s original proposal,” he said during council’s previous meeting on June 15.
At the July 20 meeting, after about 90 minutes of input from county residents, council did just that, opting to move forward with a slightly amended version of the staff’s original replacement plan.
Now the replacement plan will require developments to contain 30% of open space and would no longer define swimming pools, streets, clubhouses and other amenities as “open space.”
It’s a move that will face harsh criticism from developers. Homebuilders Association of Greenville Vice President Michael Dey argued the new rules essentially bar new developments from the unzoned areas of the county.
“I know we don’t support this,” he told council.
But that’s not to say the plan is final. Council will still have to lock down the rule change at a meeting on Aug. 17, although some council members promised they would introduce “many amendments” to the staff plan in the meanwhile.
In other business:
Less than a month after voting to withhold funding from the newly-formed Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust, council agreed to a $1 million allocation out of the FY21-22 budget with a commitment to provide another $1 million in next year’s budget. The Greenville Coalition for Greenspace, a group of advocates, community leaders, business owners and residents who questioned the council’s decision to withhold funding last month, applauded the council’s for reconsidering the matter.