Residents give input on York County growth

By 2025, York County residents want to see planning decisions made today produce a better quality of life for themselves and their families – but that often means different things to different people.

People who live in different areas of the county have different concerns about the future, planners learned in months spent compiling residents’ recommendations for the county’s 10-year comprehensive plan, and their level of interest depends on how quickly the county’s growth is affecting them.

But Kate Pearce, senior planner with the consulting firm Land Design, found three or four key concerns were evident across York County:

▪ More jobs and economic opportunities closer to home, “so not everyone is commuting north to Charlotte”

▪ More parks and recreational opportunities in the county

▪ Addressing the area’s transportation needs – whether it’s improving road quality, decreasing traffic congestion, or installing more bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

Months of public outreach led to Tuesday’s unveiling. County planners and Land Design held a series of meetings in March to solicit public input on what the next 10 years of growth and development in York County should look like – and what they shouldn’t.

Those results were presented Tuesday at the Baxter Hood Center in Rock Hill, the beginning of the next phase of gathering public reaction to the plan.

While the public’s priorities varied by region, Pearce can see ways different desires can balance each other.

“In Lake Wylie, they’re concerned about water quality and growth management. In Fort Mill, they’re very concerned about traffic, schools and growth,” she said. “But Rock Hill wants to see more growth, and York wants more industry, while preserving the scenic nature of that part of the county.”

Job growth drives resident Gray Styers’ main concern – the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard into Lancaster County.

“That opens up opportunities for economic development and for well-planned residential communities,” Styers said. “People can live, work and play in the same area, and the road will connect people with employment on both sides.”

The need for more bicycle trails often was raised separately from transportation needs, but Pearce sees them as related.

“In some of the more rural areas, where the roads have no shoulders, bikes are a traffic problem,” she said. “Besides, York County is trying to market itself as a bicycle-friendly county.”

Setting aside space for recreation and greenspace is another common concern, but opportunities for new county parks might be limited as county government has declined to set up a dedicated parks department.

Still, Lake Wylie resident Allison Love believes a way can be found to meet county residents’ needs once it becomes clear how great the need is.

“At the boat landing on Lake Wylie, I’ve seen people just hanging out on the dock, and kids playing on the rocks,” Love said. “I’ve seen people just sitting, eating lunch in their cars.”

One new tool planners used Tuesday night to refine their understanding of the area’s needs is the York County Growth Chip Game, an interactive program that allows users to plot their own desires on top of a countywide GIS image.

“With this, residents can show us where they want to protect natural resources or where they need more parks and recreation,” said planner Jake Petrosky. “They can even do it on their own tablet or phone.”

Residents can make their own additions to the map online at tinyurl.com/mp3hqhw, which already includes those made Tuesday night. The Growth Chip Game will remain open to changes until May 22, when planners will take the newly-gathered data and add it to their next presentation in the process – a “Shaping the Future” workshop on land-use scenarios on June 11.

Marilyn Hakim, who attended the earlier public meetings, came away from Tuesday’s session thinking the county is moving in the right direction, and her input along with that of other residents is having the right effect.

“We can make change,” she said. “Just don’t give up.”

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062