South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

County planners greenlight Oakvale Subdvision development in rural Blue Ridge area
April 30th, 2020

By Angelia L. Davis, Greenville News

A proposed subdivision opposed by property owners and once denied by Greenville County planning commissioners was granted approval to move forward.

The planning commission, in a 6 to 3 vote, approved the 39-lot Oakvale for a rural unzoned area off North Highway 14 in Greenville County.

Oakvale was initially denied in February.

Michael Corley, the Upstate director of the SC Environmental Law Project, represented northern Greenville County property owners in opposing the project in February and on Wednesday.

In a letter submitted to planning commissioners in advance of Wednesday’s virtual meeting, Corley argued that Oakvale must be denied or modified because it is inconsistent with the character of the surrounding area and it’s in non-compliance with both Article 3.1 of the county’s land development regulations (LDR) and the recently approved comprehensive plan.

Article 3.1 allows planners to reject subdivisions that are not "compatible with the surrounding land-use density" or the site's environmental conditions.

Upstate Forever also submitted a letter in opposition to the proposed development.

Much like Corley, the organization cited the proposal’s “clear lack of compliance" with LDR and the comprehensive plan, as well as the "dangerous precedent" that would be set if Oakvale is approved, and the confusion surrounding LDR’s application in unzoned areas.

The comprehensive plan designates the Blue Ridge area as rural and used primarily for crops pasture, woods, working farms and associated residences, Corley has said.

A standard, cookie-cutter subdivision design simply cannot match the rural design characteristics outlined in the comprehensive plan, Corley said in his letter.

The subdivision was initially considered with 18 acres and fewer lots in late February.

A variance for emergency access was denied for Oakvale, resulting in the preliminary plan to also be denied.

During the virtual meeting Wednesday, planning commission chair Jay Rogers said nine emails or letters had been submitted to commissioners in opposition to Oakvale, including letters from Corley and Upstate Forever.

Rogers said the issues raised in the letters related to the character, the design, the number of lots, environmental concerns, wetlands, protected property, high density, loss of wildlife and more.

Due to the volume of the comments, the letters were not read aloud individually, he said, but copies were given to all commissioners prior to the meeting.

Commissioner Nick Hollingshad, District 20, was among the three who voted against Oakvale's approval.

He said he doesn't believe it complies with section 3.1 LDR provisions, specifically when it comes to compatibility and environmental conditions.

"These were brought up in some detail in the public input we have," he said. "I read those closely and I found them to be credible and compelling."

Rogers, who also voted in opposition said he agreed with Hollingshad.

A number of issues were raised in the opposition filings, he said, including the argument that the development is "way out of character" with that part of the county according to the comprehensive plan.

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