A month ago, after two hours of debate, Rock Hill’s planning commission gave a developer and neighbors time work out their differences.
Commission Chairman Tom Roper heard his answer this week before discussion even began.
“I think I can figure out by the number of people here,” he said Tuesday, “that an agreement has not been reached.”
The planning commission was left to make the call, which it did by recommending against a plan for 451 homes on Eastview Road and Plantation Hills Drive.
The Rock Hill City Council has final say on the rezoning request, tentatively scheduled for vote Feb. 26.
“This is democracy at work,” Roper said. “This is what it’s supposed to be about. Your voice is going to be heard. The developer’s voice is going to be heard.”
The almost 224-acre property is east of Eastview and north of Plantation Hills, opposite Holland Road.
In January, LGI Homes had a plan for Stoneridge Hills at 480 homes. Neighbors argued that density was too high for their rural area. After two hours of public discussion, Rock Hill’s planning commission voted to defer its recommendation.
After the developer and residents met, a plan emerged with 451 homes. The developer agreed to spell out architectural guidelines. One of the three entrances, which the developer said is part of city and state road standards, could be nixed to meet resident concerns if road departments allow it.
Still, residents brought many of their same concerns Tuesday night.
“I think it’s very clear that current property owners do not want this,” said neighbor Tim Thomas. “If there is a benefit for us, enlighten us.”
Thomas said he understood the land could be developed when he bought his property – but at its current zoning for 325 homes.
Neighbor Louise Kerr posed a question to the commission members.
“Because the property was rezoned as recently as 2016, what compels us to rezone it already?” Kerr said. “It was confirmed as a good use then, so I’m wondering what justifies moving to smaller lot sizes.”
Linda Szymkiewicz raised traffic concerns, saying the study accounted for morning but not afternoon traffic from nearby York Preparatory Academy. The school has about 1,500 students.
“All the residents along Eastview and Mathis (Road) experience that bad morning and afternoon traffic every day during the school days, and it’s very backed up all down Eastview Road and Mathis,” she said. “And almost every day the traffic is backed up going down to (S.C.) 322 at the light, almost a quarter of a mile. It’s really, really bad right now.”
Sara Shirley, representing the project, said her group worked to improve the plan based on residents’ feedback, but some requests were unreasonable.
“We can only connect to roads that connect to our property,” she said. “It’s not feasible for us to connect to roads that we don’t have access to.”
Shirley said the developer and property owners couldn’t reach consensus about the size of the development.
“There’s been talk of a number that would be a happy medium somewhere, but we don’t know what that number is,” she said.
The current 451-home plan would put homes at two per acre.
“That’s pretty comparable to what’s existing right now in the neighborhood,” Shirley said.
Eric Hawkins, city planner, said his department is concerned with the rezoning.
“The things we have reservations with is just the number of lots that are proposed, and that’s mostly due to the traffic issues,” he said.
He said his group needs to see a reason for the change.
“Another thing that we look for is just something that they’re offering to justify the increases in density, something that will be enough of a benefit to the community to justify the additional density they’re asking for,” he said. “And in this case we just don’t feel like they’ve reached that point.”
Planning commissioner Duane Christopher made a motion to approve the rezoning with a 400-home cap and architectural standard upgrades, if the developer also would agree to helping with a new road connecting to S.C. 5. His motion died without a second.
“What we didn’t do in Fort Mill and throughout the county is stick with connectivity,” Christopher said. “There’s an opportunity to have a connection to Route 5, and we’re going to miss it.”
Other commissioners opted to recommend against the rezoning. Roper said in looking at city guidelines for what warrants a zoning change, he couldn’t find anything that applied to this case.
“There is no justification whatsoever for this rezoning request,” he said.