Fort Mill Times

York County moratorium vote likely April 18

York County Council should make an initial decision on a proposed housing freeze April 18.

In mid-February, Councilman Michael Johnson asked for an ordinance to be drawn up and ready for the first Council meeting in April. He wants to discuss a housing freeze, or moratorium, for the fast-growing Fort Mill and Lake Wylie unincorporated areas. The freeze would be temporary and allow the county to catch up with infrastructure needs like road planning.

Johnson was away last week and “was a little surprised” when he received the April 4 Council agenda, which didn’t include the freeze ordinance.

“I’m asking,” he said at that meeting, “bring it up at the next meeting.”

There has been support for and opposition to the freeze since the idea was proposed in mid February. Several community business leaders have expressed concern.

Johnson said the measure is a response to people in his district who want to know what the county is doing about the rapid growth they see.

“I speak to the people that live in my district, and they and look at me constantly and they say, ‘Can’t you do something?’” Johnson said. “And my response is always, I’m tired of saying I can’t do anything. I’m tired of saying my hands are tied. I’m tired.”

If the new ordinance progresses, it would include a public hearing. Johnson welcomes the idea of giving his constituents an opportunity to tell Council why more should be done to slow growth.

“This Council can vote it up. This Council can vote it down,” Johnson said. “But the people who live in these areas and who are dealing with these issues deserve the right to have a day.”

Other Council members endorsed the idea of bringing it up for discussion.

“I don’t see a problem with it being on (the April 18 agenda),” said Chairman Britt Blackwell.

Councilwoman Christi Cox, who wants a new capital improvement plan and an ordinance requiring traffic impact analysis for all new projects as part of growth planning, agreed the moratorium discussion needs to happen.

“Certainly it’s best to vote,” she said. “Let’s quit (just) talking about it.”

Councilman Bruce Henderson, who wants tighter development standards and reduced building density near waterways in York County, understands where Johnson is sitting related to growth. Johnson’s district covers part of Fort Mill, Tega Cay and unincorporated areas in between. Henderson represents unincorporated Lake Wylie and Clover.

“I sympathize with his issues there,” Henderson said. “His issues are probably four or five times greater than mine, but our back is against the wall as well in my district because of some of the same issues of wildfire growth.”

However, Henderson said he doesn’t support a full moratorium. The impact to business would be too great, he says, if new construction stops altogether. He instead wants to focus on improving the density and standards for what the county allows, and where.

“I’d like there to be an opportunity for a compromise,” Henderson said.