York County is fine-tuning the way it directs building projects in hopes of reducing red tape for developers, adapting to growth and creating more liveable communities for residents.
Streamlining the process for developers - from planning, to permitting, to construction - and rewriting regulations that might discourage businesses from relocating in the area are two goals of the York County planning and development staff and its civil engineering consultant, Jordan, Jones, & Goulding.
They have been working on revisions to development rules for about a year.
The planning staff presented its recommendations to several members of the York County Council and the public last week.
According to the planning staff, benefits to the public will include more sidewalks, more trees and open space, and less obvious changes aimed at making the community a better place to live.
"The public doesn't want to see clear-cutting, larger trees cut down, unsightly signs and things like that," York County Council Chairman Buddy Motz said.
The changes address those problems and more, he added.
The changes should give the public "the confidence that the developers are being held to a standard they want them to be held to," he said.
Here's a look at some of the proposed major changes:
The county does not require developers to build sidewalks, said Dave Pettine, county planning and development director.
One change includes sidewalk requirements, which will make the county more pedestrian-friendly.
Tree retention and reducing mass grading
"It's cost effective to wipe everything out and have a clean slate, but it's not attractive or environmentally sound," Pettine said.
Mass grading - or bulldozing everything on a property, often produces "moonscapes" - stripped plots of land that create problems with soil erosion.
An example of a mass-graded neighborhood is The Gates on Eastview Road in Rock Hill, Pettine said.
Beyond a brick entry sign sits an open expanse of nearly empty lots.
Another example is what would have been the Timber Lake subdivision off of S.C. 55 near Clover. Now, it's just an empty field behind a similar brick wall that has nothing written on it.
The county wants neighborhood developers to save 20 percent of the trees on a property.
In addition to the open space already required, this would discourage mass grading.
Open space that makes sense
The county is revising how much open space is appropriate for different business types.
Requiring an industrial business to dedicate 25 percent of its property to open space - and requiring the same of a neighborhood developer - just doesn't make sense, Pettine said.
It could discourage businesses from moving to York County, he said.
Giving the county and public more say
Some changes are aimed at giving the county more power to impose conditions to developments that might have a greater impact on communities around them.
"There currently exists no real tool for the public, council or the planning commission to address concerns that might be addressed at a public hearing," Pettine said.
County planning staff cite a grocery store's efforts to come to Fort Mill as an example of why such changes are necessary.
When Publix, a grocery store chain, decided to build its flagship store in Fort Mill on a plot of land zoned for something much smaller, the residents living in nearby Ashford on the Water, near Pleasant and Gold Hill roads, didn't want it.
Too much traffic, light and noise, they said.
In a series of meetings, Publix representatives attempted to gain the approval of the county and the residents by making changes to its building plan.
To satisfy the neighbors, Publix made changes the county did not require, including shrinking the size of its store and building a fence along the edge of the neighborhood to block light from their homes.
In similar situations, in future projects, the county would be able to require such changes if necessary.
County planning staff has been working with consultants, developers, municipal leaders, and county council on the changes. They hope to have them adopted by the council and implemented by spring.