Northern Greenville Co. landowners appeal subdivision approval
June 4th, 2020
By Angelia L. Davis, Greenville News
A group of rural Greenville County landowners is asking the court to reverse the planning commission's approval of a high density subdivision deemed inconsistent with homes in their area.
Northern Greenville County Rural Landowners, a community group of Blue Ridge residents, is appealing the county planning commission's April 2020 decision to approve the proposed Oakvale subdivision.
The appeal lists SK Builders, Inc. and the Greenville County Planning Commission as the respondents.
The appeal is the latest in a battle over land planning in the rural, unzoned parts of Greenville County. It was filed May 29 in Greenville County Circuit Court by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a non-profit public interest law firm, on behalf of the landowners.
Greenville County Attorney Mark Tollison said his office received a copy of the complaint and will review it and file an appropriate response on behalf of the planning commission with the court.
He also said “based on our understanding of state law and the current county regulations, our office believes that the planning commission's actions were in line with the law."
Tim Kallianian, owner of SK Builders, the developer listed on the proposed Oakvale papers submitted to the county, did not respond to a phone call or email.
Oakvale is a single-family subdivision that was initially proposed with 30 lots on an 18-acre site off State 14, near Neely Mill Road. The project was first presented to planning commissioners during their February meeting.
Landowners, through Michael Corley, Upstate director of SCELP, spoke in opposition to Oakvale, saying that it is incompatible with the county's comprehensive plan and factors in Article 3.1 of the county's Land Development Regulations.
Article 3.1 allows planners to reject subdivisions that are not "compatible with the surrounding land use density" or the site's environmental conditions.
Oakvale is proposed in an area having the most rural designation specified under the comprehensive plan, the appeal said. But, the plan was not considered in relation to Oakvale based on "the county's faulty legal position," the appeal said.
Article 3.1 is written "to prevent high density subdivisions in the rural landscape," the appeal said.
But that rule was also not applied to Oakvale, though "ample evidence" was presented to demonstrate that it is not compatible with the surrounding land use under the Article 3.1 standard, the appeal said.
During a debate about Oakvale at the February meeting, there was "significant confusion" among commissioners and county staff as to the legal standard and the authority of commissioners to consider density and other factors in its evaluation of the proposed development, the appeal said.
Oakvale was eventually rejected because it lacked approval of a variance for emergency access.
"But it was plain to all in attendance, and was practically stated explicitly on the record, that the denial was actually because the project was too dense for the surrounding community," the appeal said.
Oakvale was considered again by commissioners on April 29. The resubmitted plan included 39 lots and 25.3 acres. This time, it was approved in a 6-3 vote by planning commissioners.
Corley, an environmental attorney who is representing the landowners in appealing the Oakvale decision, said in a written statement that "Greenville County has an ordinance stating unequivocally that all subdivisions must be consistent with surrounding land use density."
"The County, though, has basically stated outright that it won’t apply that ordinance," he said. "Rural subdivisions are effectively unregulated right now, and the threat to rural quality of life is immediate and significant.”
The county "has made the conscious and explicit decision that this law, while still on the books, can’t be applied in the unzoned sections of the county," the appeal said.
In addition to a reversal of the planning commission's decision concerning Oakvale, the landowners are asking the court costs of the action and further relief that it deems just and appropriate.