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Beyond concrete and wine: How York County rule changes may set the landscape to come

Cat's Paw Winery opens in York County

John Burks started making wine when he couldn't find a wine he liked.
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John Burks started making wine when he couldn't find a wine he liked.

It started with wineries and concrete plants. It's bigger now.

"This is a big task," said Audra Miller, growth management coordinator for York County.

Despite the ever-changing landscape in York County, land doesn't change. The way people use land changes. So too, county leaders are learning, must rules and regulations on land use.

The county recently passed the first of three votes needed for rules on wineries, concrete plants, mines, event venues, outdoor lighting. Already, workshop and hearing dates are being volleyed for the next round of revisions.

"We started with three topics that were supposed to be pretty simple, morphed into seven ordinance revisions — actually 10," Miller said.

Miller expects it will be spring or summer of next year before the county finishes just the regulation changes leaders know about now. And they aren't even sure what the coming round of changes will entail. Though, Miller said, she's heard quite a few concerns from York County Council and the community.

"Uses not addressed — small cell towers, solar farms, food trucks, agritourism, Airbnb," she said. "Buffers always come up. Should they be undisturbed, disturbed for utilities, disturbed if bare?"

On-street parking and overall parking requirements are other items, as are driveway lengths, sign codes, scenic overlays. The farm-to-table movement could have the county looking at where horses or chickens should be allowed.

The county isn't looking to outlaw uses, or give blanket approval to them, officials say. Planning involves allowing uses the county wants in zoning districts or overlays where it wants them, then making sure those zonings fit parts of the county that support them. So a chicken farm isn't built between high-rise apartments, or an all-night bar between homes on a cul-de-sac.

The county has zoning rules, but they sometimes go years or decades without full revision. In that time new land uses sometimes arise.

Tega Cay and Rock Hill have both, for instance, looked into what rules the cities should have on listing homes with short-term rental sites like airbnb.com. While Miller was updating York County Council on Monday night about possible ordinance changes, Tega Cay City Council voted to keep its restriction against short-term rentals.

More and more cell tower pitches are coming to the county, too. Some draw citizen concern. Solar farm proposals are growing in popularity. Fort Mill leaders recently ran into an issue involving food trucks and parking on Main Street there, finding they didn't have rules on the books to fix a problem created by one truck.

Even the current list of changes came from a vocal public, from a winery wanting to hold events to groups gathered against quarries and concrete plants.

Coming ordinance review is part of a larger growth management issue Miller is facing. To the point where she and county leaders are looking to define what exactly growth management is. Surveying her council offered some encouragement.

"There was consensus," Miller said. "One was, it was not defined as zero growth or to artificially limit (growth). Infrastructure was the key element."

Leaders agreed growth issues are an intertwining of several important factors.

"You did all pretty much agree that there needed to be a mix of housing types, and you understood that it was a multifaceted issue involving transportation, utilities, economic development," Miller told council.

Which isn't to say needed decisions are easy ones.

"The challenge is going to be defining the areas moving through," Miller said. "What is the mix of housing? Is the infrastructure concurrent, before or after? And what’s the acceptable level of service?"

The other problem tackling community growth, largely in the eastern part of the county hardly confined to it, is where to start.

Miller has more than a dozen items on her plate now. The Fort Mill School District wants to raise its development impact fee, a charge on new homes and apartments to pay for district growth. That move means the county has to update its existing district fee ordinance and overall impact fee ordinance. Plus, change agreements in place with the district, and the municipalities of Fort Mill and Tega Cay.

The county is working on its own new impact fee proposal, too. Along with stormwater utility changes, a thoroughfare plan to help with traffic and a host of other items.

"I know that I cannot add another project on my plate for the next six months," Miller said. "And that doesn't mean I'm not taking growth management seriously. All of these are part of growth management, and we're working on them."

John Marks; @johnFMTimes, 329-4000

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