York County leaders cleared the first hurdle for a building moratorium in Lake Wylie, and there doesn’t appear to be any opposition to it wrapping up as early as December.
York County Council voted unanimously Monday night to pass the first of three readings needed to stop approving new apartment, condo or townhome projects in Lake Wylie through March 31, 2021. The rule also would set minimum lot sizes for residential development, expand the current Lake Wylie overlay district and disallow county rezoning applications there, through that same date.
“This is an opportunity for York County to get the horse back in front of the cart, in Lake Wylie,” said Councilwoman Allison Love, whose district covers Lake Wylie and Clover.
In a separate decision, the Town of Clover is considering its own moratorium on residential development. A public hearing on that new rule comes Nov. 11 at the Clover Community Center.
York County held the public hearing on its rule change Monday night. What the county didn’t hear was reason to put off the moratorium.
Among the 13 people who spoke Monday night on the moratorium and twice that many more in attendance, no one gave any reason to delay or rethink the issue.
“We need the Lake Wylie overlay desperately,” said Dorothy Johnson, who called recent Lake Wylie growth explosive, uncontrolled and out of hand.
Denis Welraven said in his 10 years here, he hasn’t seen utilities or traffic mitigation keep up with growth.
“As we look to expand our region, we need to make sure that we’ve got in the infrastructure and support to sustain it,” he said. “And right now we don’t.”
Tom Smith served on a land use planning committee about 15 years ago, before serving on county council in the seat Love now holds.
“It’s something that’s probably long overdue,” Smith said of the pending rule changes.
There was considerable work on land use changes ahead of a planned unified development ordinance Smith believes would’ve helped control growth in Lake Wylie, but when recession hit about a decade ago the county scrapped the development ordinance. Plans to have public infrastructure, parks and other things in place ahead of growth didn’t come to pass.
“Without those control measures, we have the room full behind us,” Smith said, backed Monday night by dozens of Lake Wylie residents.
Traffic and crowded schools were common issues brought up Monday, as they have been for many years at similar county council meetings. Even the idea of a moratorium isn’t new. In 2014 then Councilman Bruce Henderson called for a moratorium on residential building in Lake Wylie, but it didn’t have council support. Two years later a moratorium for Fort Mill came up for vote, but didn’t include Lake Wylie.
“We’ve got to do something to improve and control the growth that we’re seeing right now,” said Jim Heckle, a 40-years resident. “The infrastructure in the Lake Wylie area is at full capacity and beyond.”
Lake Wylie has undeveloped properties with vested rights, meaning developers already can build on them, totaling more than 2,400 homes and 250 townhomes. More than 400 more homes, 25 townhomes and almost 300 apartments have been proposed.
“This has been a long time coming,” said resident Rozalynn Federline. “It’s a need.”
Bill Hildebrand, here since 2001, said even as a retiree he struggles with traffic in routine trips. Some places back up a mile or more, he said, and take several traffic signal cycles to get through. Traffic stopped on Buster Boyd Bridge is a daily occurrence during rush hour, he said.
“It becomes a parking lot,” Hildebrand said.
Some residents went beyond traffic and school impact. Several shared environmental concern. Silt washing into the lake from construction sites ranked among them.
“Growth comes with risk to our environment, and we must do everything we can to protect the beautiful asset of Lake Wylie,” Hildebrand said.
Resident Ellen Goff is a long-time environmental activist through groups like the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Lake Wylie Marine Commission. She sees development along the lake shores as a threat to the lake itself.
“This is not anti-business and it’s not anything more than trying to provide a quality of life in our section of the county that I think everyone expects,” Goff said.
Speakers Monday night represented homeowner associations. Some spoke of living in large neighborhoods or working in industries that contributed to Lake Wylie’s growth the past couple of decades. Several spoke about a key change proposed, expanding the overlay area beyond the peninsula traditionally known as Lake Wylie, along the S.C. 49 corridor.
Decades ago building in Lake Wylie largely meant the River Hills area near Buster Boyd Bridge. In recent years significant growth has come along S.C. 557, S.C. 274, Pole Branch Road and other places.
“It’s important to make the overlay imprint larger,” said Christine Baldizzi, speaking for 398 homeowners at Mill Creek Falls.
Mark Sleeper applauded council for recent work to increase school impact fees in Fort Mill, and asked for the same consideration for Clover schools. Sleeper said he’s been on Concord Road 29 years, and for more than a decade he and others have been working against potential overdevelopment of land near Catawba Nuclear Station.
“This overlay ordinance can directly impact its outcome for the benefit of all of our residents,” Sleeper said.
As council considers the Lake Wylie change, there already is work to develop a small area plan in Lake Wylie.
Resident Billy Hagner said the moratorium would allow time to better create that plan.
“It only makes sense to implement this ordinance while the small area plan is being developed for Lake Wylie,” he said. “This will limit the rush of potential developments trying to get ahead and get approval prior to the small area plan implementation.”
Residents say a moratorium won’t fix all their concerns, but it could help.
“That can’t be undone,” Johnson said of past development, “but we need to carefully plan the future.”
Councilman Britt Blackwell said he’s surprised it took this long to get residential building restrictions in Lake Wylie up for vote. Councilman Robert Winkler said he wonders whether his part of York may be next to face development pressure. Both men supported Love’s proposed rule changes.
“If we don’t have it in my area before long,” Winkler said of the small area plan for Lake Wylie, “it’s going to come down 49 and run over us here, just like it did y’all.”
Councilman William “Bump” Roddey joined Love for a tour of Lake Wylie to see all the traffic and related concerns that repeatedly come before council.
“What she’s asking for here, it’s not hard to support,” Roddey said.
The changes would allow Lake Wylie to get its collective feet back under it, he said, though Roddey cautions anyone thinking a moratorium will solve traffic and overcrowding woes.
“This is not to address that,” Roddey said. “This is to address the next phase to come.”
Roddey said some issues in Lake Wylie will remain, due to all the homes there already.
“What’s happened already, we can’t undo that,” he said.
“We’re not ever going to fix the traffic on 49,” she said. “There’s nowhere for those cars to go. So what we have to do now is remedy as much as we can, and try and preserve what we still have.”
Love doesn’t want the growth issue in Lake Wylie to be seen only in traffic.
“It’s a lot more than just people sitting in traffic,” she said.
At issue is the quality of life for residents there.
“At some point we’ve got to get some relief,” Love said.
The changes still need two more readings. Council meets three more times this year. The earliest council could pass third reading is Dec. 2.