York County Council has several options that could change the way land developers do business.
The question of which option to choose remains.
Council members held a workshop Sept. 28 on a zoning and subdivision code overhaul. Council members gave initial approval to the ordinance change Aug. 17, but set the workshop ahead of two final readings and a public hearing. About 200 people attended prior public meetings in Lake Wylie, Fort Mill and Rock Hill to offer input on building density, road connections, traffic impact and future land use.
Councilman Michael Johnson (R-District 1), who represents Tega Cay and part of Fort Mill, said his group and county planners are making progress, and some changes could be approved piecemeal beginning as early as Oct. 19.
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“We finalized probably five or six issues that we all agreed on,” he said of the workshop. “What we’ve done is we’ve taken the issues and broken them down into those that are easy, those that are difficult and those that are really difficult.”
Issues still to be resolved include whether to change which zoning categories to allow for multifamily or high density housing and whether to cap density on subdivisions.
“We’ve never really had a density cap before,” Johnson said. “We’ve had minimum lot sizes.”
Buried in the workshop agenda was an idea that could gain momentum. Council members spent time considering what impact it would have if they stopped taking roads from new subdivisions into the county system. A majority of members were interested in the idea, Johnson said, though staff will have to look at how Lancaster and other counties have done it previously.
Johnson said he had more money in road requests for his district last year than was allocated for the whole county. Not taking on more roads is one option to keep costs down. Roads presumably would remain private, and homeowner associations or builders would be responsible for them.
Another idea discussed prior to and during the workshop is an impact fee to help pay for road costs. Johnson said that idea received a lukewarm reception.
“I still do not support impact fees,” he said. “They have a disproportionate impact on commercial business, which is what we need more of in this county.”
Some issues during the ordinance overhaul process have taken a back seat. Lake Wylie residents began arguing about a year ago for tighter development measures near the lake.
“Council decided to consider all proposed revisions be applied countywide, so no Lake Wylie overlay is being proposed,” said Audra Miller, planning director.
Council discussed a watershed overlay for the Catawba River and Lake Wylie, not just for the few miles along S.C. 49 in Lake Wylie that spurred interest in land-use protection.
“Such an overlay would encompass the watershed, which is much larger than what has been discussed for a Lake Wylie overlay,” Miller said.
Residential growth has drawn dozens of residents to York County Council meetings in the past year asking for anything from slowed development to an all-out building moratorium. Residents argued high-density construction not only overwhelms roads, fills schools and stresses utilities, but also endangers the lake with sediment runoff.
As for the watershed overlay, county planning staff will share research with the planning commission in November.
“This would only be a presentation of the concept and not an ordinance,” Miller said. “If such an overlay were enacted, staff estimates a year to prepare, present and receive final council approval.”
Another common request from several public meetings was a change in the way the county calculates building density. Residents asked for a net rather than gross density, or a calculation that subtracts acreage unsuitable for development because of slope, streams, use as roadway or open space. Council members decided not to change the gross calculations.
“Council has decided that gross is a better way of measuring it,” Johnson said.
Potential density caps or changes to what each zoning classification allows could accomplish similar goals to a net density, he said.
A public hearing and second reading on the ordinance revision will be Nov. 2. Final reading would follow Nov. 16.
“We will update the planning department website in the next couple of days with the schedule and documents showing the revisions council will be considering,” Miller said Tuesday.