Rock Hill apartment ban extended

Rock Hill’s moratorium on new apartments will stand for at least another three months.

On Monday, the City Council approved an extension of the moratorium, meaning that by the time the ban ends in October, no new multifamily housing units will have been approved within Rock Hill city limits for a full year.

At the same time, the council accepted a study by city planners calling for zoning changes to limit the location, appearance and scale of future multifamily housing construction in the city.

The move follows the council’s decision in November to place a nine-month moratorium on construction of apartments, condos and townhouses throughout the city. Citing an uptick in housing construction after the recession, city leaders wanted to ensure new construction fit in with Rock Hill’s long-term development goals. At the time the moratorium went into effect, more than 1,200 residential units already were under construction or had received city approval.

“We wanted to slow the process down and do a more detailed analysis,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Reno, who presided over Monday’s meeting.

The new study found that 10,000 multifamily units in Rock Hill constitute 40 percent of the city’s housing stock. Many of the larger developments, with more than 225 units each, were clustered around Interstate 77, said Bill Meyer, the city’s planning and development director.

“We don’t want to be a location just to commute to Charlotte,” Meyer said. “We want people to be engaged with the Rock Hill community.”

As an example of the kind of housing the city wants to encourage, Meyer points to the Legacy at Manchester Village off Dave Lyle Boulevard, were residents are within walking distance of a park and commercial businesses.

Cherry Road could see more multifamily housing in the future, he said, because it would break up the preponderance of commercial development in the area and give residents easy access to Cherry Park.

Future development will be driven by a new generation of “renters by choice,” a mix of younger millennials and older baby boomers who want to avoid the “burden and risk of homeownership” made apparent by the recession.

Size and scale of apartment complexes also are concerns identified by the report. The document blames over-concentration for an increase in crime in some areas, noting eight out of 10 multifamily developments with the highest instances of crime saw more criminal activity than nearby single-family neighborhoods.

Some developers objected to the moratorium when it initially passed, though property owners who had “vested rights” at the time were allowed to go forward with construction. Meyer said planners have heard from owners throughout the process of compiling the study, especially from those on properties the city hopes to re-zone to prevent any new multifamily use.

Council members spoke in support of the new restrictions.

“I usually lean toward the free market,” said Councilman John Black, “but you look at what they’ve seen in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill, and we have a responsibility as a city to look at things long-range.”

Meyer said that city staff and council members will work quickly to get all the changes in place by the time the extended moratorium ends. By the proposal’s tentative schedule, the council will adopt amendments to its zoning ordinances in May and June; then 25 separate pieces of property will need to be rezoned after each receives a public hearing before the council, from June to October.

“We don’t want it to take any longer than it has to,” Meyer said, noting the council may need to hear four to six rezoning requests per month, in addition to any routine requests that come up in that time.

“We may have some late nights,” Meyer said.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062