New Rock Hill apartment standards to kick in once moratorium ends

The Rock Hill City Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to changes in city zoning aimed at limiting overdevelopment and creating neighborhoods that fit better with the overall community.
The Rock Hill City Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to changes in city zoning aimed at limiting overdevelopment and creating neighborhoods that fit better with the overall community. Herald file

Rock Hill is setting new rules for housing development after its temporary ban on apartment construction comes to an end later this year – but developers might not like some of the restrictions included in the proposed zoning changes.

In November, the city council passed a nine-month moratorium on new apartment construction within the city limits, citing a “significant increase” in permit requests for new multi-family housing in the city. The council later extended the moratorium to a full year while city staff evaluated new zoning rules for all kinds of new housing.

The proposal adopted last week creates three new zoning districts – single-family attached housing, multi-family, and mixed-use – each with new rules the city hopes will limit over-development and create neighborhoods that fit better with the overall community.

It would go into effect if the council gives its final approval at its next meeting on June 8.

The new single-family designation – which also will apply to townhouse and condominium developments – would set a limit of eight units per acre, and 25 developable acres per project. Architectural standards for these districts are designed to encourage a “high-quality, pedestrian-oriented urban environment.” The possibility of public parks are mentioned in all three new zoning classifications. Restrictions would limit the ability of single-family units to “transition” to multi-family uses in the future.

“We’re trying to address the phenomenon of ‘renters by choice,’” said Planning Director Bill Meyer. “There’s a next generation of trends, and walkability is a part of that.”

New apartment restrictions would limit complexes to 20 units per developable acre, with no more than 225 units per project, depending on the area’s density requirements. Projects would be limited to between five and 15 developable acres for low- to high-density areas.

Because crime is often an issue raised whenever new apartments are proposed, the new rules would require fencing and security cameras around complexes, and developers would be required to meet with the Rock Hill Police Department early in the process and have their on-site lighting reviewed by officers.

One requirement will move away from open breezeways between apartments, which Meyer said make residents feel insecure, and toward enclosed corridors or direct entrances to units.

Despite the city’s desire to limit future development, not everyone wants to see those restrictions enforced.

Attorney Steve McCrae, who represents developer Walton SC LLC, warned the new rules would negatively affect the “economic viability of the city.”

Walton SC plans to built 1,100 residential units on 200 acres it owns on Ogden Road. McCrae said he believes the new single-family-attached restrictions, if applied to that property, would create a negative financial impact on Walton.

“If adopted,” he said, “this will have an adverse affect on the growth of a vibrant community.”

Of the new requirement that apartments have security cameras, he asked, “Who bears the expense of monitoring these security cameras?”

Nevertheless, the City Council gave the proposal its unanimous approval.

The proposed zoning rules also set standards to ensure adequate parking exists for apartment residents.

“That way, you have them parking in empty spaces and not in landscaped areas,” said planner Leah Youngblood.

Last month, the City Council voted to reserve 40 downtown parking spaces in the public lot on East White Street for residents of a new apartment building going up at 139 E. Main St.

The new mixed-use district will allow for new residential housing to be built above non-residential usages, such as street-level commercial properties. These zoning districts will allow for even more units than regular apartments – 30 per developable acre, with a maximum acreage of 10. Mixed-use developments would have to follow some of the same standards as the city’s downtown district.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062