South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Greenville County to consider rule for new residential development in rural, unzoned areas
August 31st, 2020

By Angelia L. Davis, Greenville News

A proposed county regulation would make it harder for developers to get high density subdivisions approved in unzoned areas of the county.

The proposed regulation would set minimum lot sizes of two acres for new residential developments in rural areas and would amend the county's Land Development Regulations. The amendment known as Article 22 establishes Subdivision Jurisdiction Areas with boundaries and guides for the number of dwelling units in new residential subdivisions within defined areas.

Michael Corley, Upstate director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, calls the proposed amendment “a promising development” because it addresses Article 3.1 of the Land Development Regulations.

That rule allows planners to reject subdivisions that are not "compatible with the surrounding land use density" or the site's "environmental conditions.“

All of the rural subdivisions that have been controversial in the past couple of years have had lot sizes of a half-acre or less, Corley said.

The Greenville County Planning staff has said, as it relates to density, the county comprehensive plan and Article 3.1 do not apply to unzoned areas.

That’s not true, Corley said. "What we’ve been pushing for and the reason we’ve been filing appeals is to say ‘you don’t think you can apply (Article 3.1), but it’s still on the books. It’s still the only regulation we have to control these rural subdivisions,'" he said. "'You've either got to apply the law that’s on the books or you’ve got to pass a new law.’”

He believes the county is doing that with the proposed amendment.

The most interesting thing about the proposed amendment, he said, is it pulls the minimum lot sizes directly from the county’s comprehensive plan. The plan was approved with input from “all sort of stakeholders.”

“So, it seems to me very logical and very sensical that the minimum lot sizes in the Land Development Regulations would be the same as what’s in the comprehensive plan," he said.

The Greenville County Planning Commission, at its meeting this month, voted 5-4 to recommend opposition to the amendment.

Commissioners Frank Hammond and Milton Shockley described it as a zoning that’s going to affect more than 265,000 acres of Greenville County. Many who live on those areas probably don’t know they’re about to be zoned, Hammond said

Both said the proposal needs further vetting.

Planning Commission Chair Steve Bichel said the amendment would move forward to the County Council regardless of the commissioners' voted. He also said the public would have an opportunity to give input to the council as it moves forward.

The council's Planning and Development Committee will discuss the proposal at its virtual meeting set for 5 p.m.

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