The York County Council gave the final nod Monday night to approve a plan to remodel the Interstate 77 interchange at Carowinds Boulevard in Fort Mill Township.
The changes would improve economic development and create a more attractive gateway into York County and South Carolina, county leaders say. The next step is to get businesses involved and find funding for the projects, said Councilman Paul Lindemann.
One possible source of funding is an S.C. Department of Transportation grant for improvements at interstate interchanges totaling up to $400,000 a year. If awarded, the grant could help fund a "gateway" sign along the interstate welcoming travelers to the county. It also would fund the installation of shrubbery, irrigation and lighting for the gateway, Lindemann said.
Now that the plan is approved, the business community should help guide improvements to the area, said Bennish Brown, executive director of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. One way to do so would be through creating an association which could use fees collected for improvements and help shape the area's business community.
The Carowinds Boulevard plan came about after a study of the nearly 2,000 acres of businesses, residences and land along the interstate exit. When the county asked land and business owners to describe the area, they said it's an eyesore, shabby, rundown, and functionally and visually obsolete.
Lessening traffic congestion, reducing visual clutter, improving landscaping and diversifying the types of businesses in the area are some of the plan's goals.
Carrying it out will require enforcing property codes, creating more attractive signs, changing zoning to eliminate unrestricted development and encouraging more mixed-use and multifamily development and landscaping.
The county will have to work alongside the area's stakeholders to make these changes.
In a special presentation, the County Council thanked outgoing S.C. Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-Clover, who was present, "for his tireless quest for excellence" and "unyielding sacrifices" in serving the public since 1978.
County Manager Jim Baker offered some good news to the council, which has five outgoing members. At the end of the 2010 fiscal year, the county spent $11 million less than it budgeted, dipping into reserves by only $1 million. Savings in nearly every department and other factors, including eliminated or vacant positions, all contributed, he said.