York County may not have changes ready in time to affect a proposed concrete plant on Bethel School Road. But leaders don’t want to sit idly by waiting on the next one.
“We’ve got concrete plants, mining and quarries,” York County Councilwoman Allison Love said. “That’s an issue, and that’s not just a one-time thing. That is going to be coming up numerous times in the very near future.”
County planners and representatives for more than five acres on Bethel School Road met in mid-August to discuss a site plan and permitting for a concrete plant. The project hasn’t been approved. But the discussion prompted conversation on what the county should allow, and where, without a county council vote.
“They need to be special exceptions,” Love said. “We need to have a say on some of those things.”
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If land uses are listed in a property’s zoning, council and even county planning staff are limited in what they can do to prevent them. As long as plans fit density, building and traffic requirements, they can happen. If certain by-right uses are removed from zoning districts and made special exceptions, each proposal would take review from county staff and boards. Along with, potentially, a vote from council.
Council asked county staff to look into hiring a consultant to look at ordinance changes. Changes would join a long list of work including impact fee, stormwater fee and thoroughfare plan studies. The county would have to dip into its general fund for a new study on land-use changes, but council members say it’s worth it.
“I don’t think that’s good enough for our citizens, for us not to address it,” said Councilman William “Bump” Roddey.
Love began posting earlier this month on her Facebook page about the Bethel School Road site. Many comments said a concrete plant shouldn’t go there so close to homes and rural areas. But others argued for the economic development new business would bring. Some neighbors near an existing plant at S.C. 557 and Riddle Mill Road posted of road problems caused by that site.
Elizabeth Bland moved with her husband from Wilmington, N.C., to Bethel School Road in 2009. Her daughter and son-in-law also live about halfway down the two-mile road.
“It's very, very close to me,” Bland said of the concrete plant site. “We have a 5-acre tract, but there are three family homes on it.”
Bland had a real estate company before coming here, and a concrete plant concerns her when she thinks of property values.
“The depreciation of value would probably be No. 1 (concern),” Bland said, “and the danger of traffic on a two-mile road and two lanes heading to a school would be another.”
She said Love has been “very supportive” and is hopeful the concrete plant isn’t built.
“Very worried about it,” Bland said, “and plan to continue to try to work to turn it around.”
If the county decides to make concrete plants, mining and quarry uses a special exception, each such proposal would come up for a vote. Council then could look at each site individually to determine fit, rather than having a site pop up anywhere a county zoning might allow it.
Councilwoman Christi Cox said “time is of the essence” when it comes not only to concrete plants and quarries, but similar issues where she feels the county is being too reactive. Councilman Chad Williams said the recent unified development ordinance planners worked toward, but stopped three quarters of the way through, could have settled some of the issue facing the county now.
“Our zoning has gotten very cumbersome and outdated in a lot of ways,” said Councilman Robert Winkler.
Not just related to concrete plants. Winkler said he recently met with someone wanting to create an event venue, but couldn’t. County zoning doesn’t allow it.
“Here are three, possibly four businesses that I know of right now, that are wanting to open in the county, and we’re telling them there’s no way they can,” he said.
Love said she has someone interested in opening an events venue in her district, too. In that case zoning uses are impacting several parties.
“A land sale right now is hinging on what those people are going to be able to do,” Love said.
It isn’t clear yet how quickly changes could come. Council would have to identify money for a consultant, put out bids and hire one, have the consultant put a plan together and review it through county staff. All before council starts its own adoption process, which typically takes a couple of months or more.
Council members say it’s important to allow the right type of land uses in the right areas.
“We’re going to see some new ideas, some new businesses want to come,” Roddey said. “Because we haven’t addressed them doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a good fit for this area.”