Homebuilders in the Fort Mill area may only have a couple more months to begin work before York County steps in to freeze growth for the last half of the year.
An ordinance that received preliminary approval on Monday would prohibit the county from considering any new residential rezonings in six separate zoning classifications in the Fort Mill area, or from accepting any new preliminary plats or site plans for single- or multi-family housing until the beginning of 2017.
The County Council approved the plan with a vote of 5-2, with Chairman Britt Blackwell and William “Bump” Roddey voting against.
The proposal would ban new housing construction in the Fort Mill area – between the Catawba River, North Carolina and Indian Land, excluding land inside the municipal limits of Fort Mill and Tega Cay.
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Roddey cited the municipal exemption in his vote against the idea, saying “subdivisions are already being annexed into the city.”
But Councilman Michael Johnson of Fort Mill, who made the proposal, said the freeze was a temporary measure, which would lead to bigger, permanent changes.
“If this was just a freeze, we shouldn’t pass it,” Johnson said.
Johnson wants to use the time to have a study group of building industry representatives and residents come up with specific concerns the council can address with an ordinance before the freeze ends.
He hopes the proposal will come together by October, when the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study Committee will complete its own collector study on traffic capacity in the area.
The freeze ordinance cites longer delays in traffic and greater stress on transportation infrastructure, and York County now faces “difficulty in maintaining an acceptable (level of service) for roads and intersections,” the ordinance states.
Councilwoman Christi Cox, who voted for the ordinance, said she wants to see the county adopt a “critical infrastructure” ordinance that would allow the county to block approval of new subdivisions “if it would dump additional traffic onto roads that cannot sustain it.”
Homebuilding has been targeted by critics hoping to stop what they see as runaway growth in the county.
Especially in the Fort Mill and Lake Wylie areas, growth has become increasingly problematic. York County reviewed 1,855 residential building plans in 2014 and another 2,534 in 2015, according to figures cited in the draft ordinance. The county received six separate apartment plans last year, and seven the year before that – compared to three in 2013 and one in 2012.
Other council members seemed to be skeptical that a freeze would do much about those concerns, but wanted to move the item to a public hearing on May 16 – after the freeze is reviewed at the next county Planning Commission meeting on May 9. A third and final reading of the proposal wouldn’t pass until later in June.
Blackwell said that schedule means the freeze would only have “a couple months’ effect.”
“Something like this, I can’t support at all,” Blackwell said. “Having no growth will kill a county.”