Of the more than 40 guests spilling from Fort Mill Town Council Chambers into the lobby of Town Hall for a Sept. 8 meeting, almost all were townhome residents concerned with what might happen if disaster came, or if they had to sell.
“Residents can potentially lose their homes,” said Carrie Henderson, homeowner association president at the Cascades at River Crossing.
Council finalized three rezoning requests from highway commercial to residential and amended town zoning rules to change what is allowed to be rebuilt following a fire or other disaster. The reason Council took up the changes is a recent finding about local zoning that’s led to lost home sales already.
“This one appraiser found it, and then it was open,” said resident Jane Chase. “Now it’s common knowledge. That’s all it took.”
Cascades at River Crossing and Townes at River Crossing were built before a 2006 rezoning to highway commercial, which took out the residential use for both townhome communities. Existing units were grandfathered in and allowed to remain. But recently, residents say, sales started falling through when banks wouldn’t lend on the townhomes because residential use doesn’t fit current zoning.
“People are concerned,” Chase said.
Until the changes Sept. 8, if 50 percent or more of a building grandfathered in a nonconforming zone was damaged, it could not be rebuilt. The Council changed that rule for nonconforming uses to 75 percent of the structure.
But because Council voted to change the zoning for these townhomes, residents can rebuild or sell their homes now.
Combined, the Cascades and Townes development has 360 townhomes on 38 acres. A third, similar rezoning involves a church on less than 2 acres. The town is looking to see if similar situations could arise elsewhere.
The decision to create three new zoning districts for townhomes also takes that use out of the most popular zoning designation, R-5 residential. Since it was created last year, R-5 has been by far the most requested zoning from landowners or developers looking to annex into Fort Mill.
Developers of property that was under York County jurisdiction before being annexed into town limits, say they want single-family subdivisions, but R-5 also allows for townhomes that could create far more dense neighborhoods.
Thus far, the town has taken to development agreements as a way to make sure final plans from developers aren’t far from what they initially propose at annexation. The development agreements cap the number of homes, often taking townhome density out of the equation.
By removing townhomes from R-5 but creating the three new townhome options, the town and developers have a better idea what’s coming by the zoning given at annexation.