For a word nobody wanted to use, moratorium came up plenty last week.
Fort Mill’s planning commission knows they can’t create one. What they don’t know is how to handle incoming development requests in the Doby’s Bridge Road area when the road already is over capacity.
“It’s a big step to create a moratorium,” chairman James Traynor said at a July 22 meeting. “We simply can’t do that. We can only make recommendations.”
Kevin Granelli represented a 168-acre property off Doby’s Bridge, being sold by the Talkington family to Trinity Land Partners for development of up to 450 single-family homes.
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Granelli said no townhomes or apartments are proposed, and one or two builders would create the community next to Riverchase. But commissioners couldn’t get past a 2013 daily traffic stat showing Doby’s Bridge is at 105 percent capacity.
“That’s just what’s out there today,” said Planning Director Joe Cronin, noting another 800 homes in Massey and 200 in Riverchase are among those already approved along Doby’s Bridge.
The commission deferred the annexation request.
“To even begin to start on a road that’s already over capacity, I just don’t see it,” said Commissioner Ben Hudgins. “We have to be mindful of throwing the green flag on a road that’s over capacity.”
Hynek Lettang is new to the commission, but quickly came to his reason for concern.
“Think about 45 football fields of vehicles on that road,” he said. “That’s turning Doby’s Bridge into Doby’s Bridge Walkway.”
Commissioner Chris Wolfe and others agreed they can’t call for a moratorium, but Wolfe wondered how his group’s decisions could impact the pace of development as road infrastructure catches pace.
“The last thing we need on Doby’s Bridge is more development,” Wolfe said. “The last thing we need now is another 700 cars.”
One of the parcels is owned by John Talkington, who is employed by The (Rock Hill) Herald, a sister paper to the Fort Mill Times.
Commissioners say the Talkington property on its own isn’t a concern. It’s existing traffic plus the more than 1,000-unit Waterside on the Catawba, and completion of Massey and other developments in the area. Plus, Wolfe said, “there’s still property further down the road.”
A halt to more approvals until an answer arrives to the traffic question, should be considered, Wolfe said.
The first phase of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass project, called Fort Mill Parkway, should be complete within weeks, Cronin said. Other projects outside the area, such as the completion of I-485 in Charlotte, should help with cut-through traffic, he said.
But other road improvements aren’t likely to arrive soon.
“There is no simple answer,” Cronin said. “And there’s no one answer, either.”
The most likely funding sources are federal grants and the next Pennies for Progress campaign, both years out.
“The issue is dollars aren’t there to do them,” Cronin said.
Town Council will have the final say on the recent annexation. The commission didn’t recommend council members deny the request, but by deferring it gave developers time to work with town staff on the plan.
“People want to live in Fort Mill because of quality of life,” Wolfe said. “What we don’t want to do is destroy that quality of life.”