LAKE WYLIE -- Tom Smith has to look pretty hard into the economic recession to see a silver lining, but he knows there is one. And he -- along with the rest of York County Council -- isn't going to sit around waiting to find it.
"While we have this time while the economy, unfortunately, is slow, it gives us time to look at our standards that we have now and figure out what we want them to be," said Lake Wylie's county councilman.
With fewer new construction projects than in recent booming years, county staff is looking at several projects including a new Unified Development Ordinance, which the county recently decided to pursue with consultant help. The UDO follows years of work on an interim development ordinance, and would rewrite county zoning and planning rules.
In the next year to 18 months, the project could increase green space requirements for new development, add sidewalks for connectivity and, of particular importance to the lake, create more natural buffer areas in new projects.
Council last week passed a new stormwater ordinance that bumps up minimum discharge requirements. The state standard for sediment basins, for instance, requires enough storage to withstand a 10-year storm of record (the highest single precipitation expected in a 10-year span). The new ordinance requires sediment basins within a half-mile of Lake Wylie built for a 25-year storm of record.
Also, erosion control standards will extend to 1,000 feet from perennial streams, streams with continuous flow year-round during normal rainfall.
"We just need to add more things to the overall erosion control measures," Smith said.
All these efforts come at a time when new construction is stagnant. Some projects are under way, such as the construction of a boulevard connecting S.C. 49 and 274 in a planned development between Crowders Creek and Big Allison Creek.
"Right now pretty much everything is being put on hold," Smith said.
Because of that planned development, the down time to figure out future planning could be as helpful now as ever. A recently adopted burning ordinance could prevent smoke from more than 1,000 acres of developed trees, mulching them instead, once the 20-year buildout is complete.
But the biggest decision in the near future is a possible land swap between land owner Crescent Resources and the Clover School District being negotiated. Ken Love, finance and facilities officer for the district, said the groups are "still working on the final details" but could have something in place within 30-60 days.
Originally the planned development included 100 acres of land donated by Crescent for use by Clover schools and the county for recreation, 50 acres each. But the district could swap land it already holds for more property within the development, and now is looking at, possibly, more than 100 acres.
"We felt like that would not be enough, and so we started looking at options for additional land," Love said of the original plan.
Any land swap or purchase by the district would require school board and state department of education approval, Love said. Even if such a decision comes within 60 days, that does not mean the district will have to decide right away how the land will be used.
"As the population grows in our area, and as the construction date nears we'll have to decide what type or types of schools we want to build," Love said. "That's just one step in the direction that you've got to go."
Smith, though, in working for several years now on the planned development, envisioned the property as one final opportunity to bring much needed land for recreation and schools, among other needs, by using the largest remaining tracts of undeveloped land.
"With the schools, that land might not be used for years, but we're going to put it in place so that when we need it, it will be there," Smith said.
And that type of effort, perhaps more silver lining that Smith might have considered, is the type of thing Smith hopes the leaders can best do when growth is not present, but coming.
"When it does come, we'll be ready for it," Smith said.