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Building a better looking B-3

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Residents intrigued, pessimistic about proposed IL corridor overlay district

By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County is moving forward with its latest approach to addressing Indian Land residents’ perennial concerns with B-3 zoning – make it look good.

That’s the idea behind the proposed U.S. 521/S.C. 160 corridor overlay district ordinance presented to Indian Land residents at an informal public information session Dec. 18 at the Del Webb Library.

The proposed overlay district is the latest in a long list of mostly failed plans to address what many Indian Land residents say is uneven and out-of-control zoning in the fast-growing unincorporated community.

The plan differs from past plans in that it appears to be somewhat of a compromise between Indian Land county council members and those from other parts of the county reluctant to place zoning limits on businesses.

“This came about because council members said ‘We will not accept any agreement that places limits on (business zoning) uses,’” Lancaster County Planning Director Penelope G. Karagounis said at the meeting. “’We want to focus on aesthetics.’”

Karagounis got the go-ahead from council members in April to work with planning and urban design firm ColeJenest & Stone of Charlotte.

The proposed overlay district would affect only new businesses fronting U.S. 521 from S.C. 75 northward to the state line and S.C. 160 from U.S. 521 to the Lancaster/York county line.

Residential zones for single-family homes are exempt, as are planned development districts and other developments approved prior to the ordinance’s adoption, should council approve it.

The district doesn’t alter underlying zoning regulations under the county’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), ColeJenest & Stone consultant Brian Jenest said, but is intended to promote a “sense of place and consistency” for the community through overarching aesthetic regulations.

While the plan is still under development and subject to change, the proposed ordinance places requirements and standards on nearly every aspect of development, such as building placement, height and materials, signage, sidewalks, green spaces, parking, lighting, buffers and landscaping, among others.

As local examples, Jenest pointed to Baxter Village in Fort Mill for its signage, lighting and other aspects and CMC Carolina Lakes Medical Plaza on U.S. 521 in Indian Land with its parking obscured from the highway.

Jenest said even though zoning itself won’t change, the hope is that the overlay district regulations and standards will weed out undesirable uses.

Though it may be unimaginable now, Jenest said, the community could see residents enjoying walks along a landscaped and manicured Charlotte Highway.

“We’re hoping that with zoning like it is, that standards will go up and it will affect zoning,” Jenest said. “Maybe, (once it does) it doesn’t make sense to have Industrial zoning where it is.

“And by the way, the things I’m talking about are becoming more and more common – and the thing developers value most is predictability,” he said about developers making decisions on the location of their projects.

Reaction

Jenest, Karagounis and members of the Lancaster County Planning Commission answered questions posed by attendees of the informal meeting.

Some, such as Indian Land real estate agent Sneha Shah, wondered whether the ordinance would be detrimental to development due to increased costs associated with building under the district’s regulations and standards.

Again, Jenest pointed to the “predictability” factor.

“What we have to do is convince developers that this will increase their property values,” Jenest said. “If you’ve got higher standards, it’s going to bring in a higher standard of development.

“And to do that, you’ve got to have the framework for predictability. You have to offer an incentive,” he said.

Not everyone, however, was pleased with the idea.

Some decried the uselessness of sidewalks, others the potential costs. J.R. Wilt of Van Wyck said he thought the overlay district would be a mistake that would bog down traffic on U.S. 521.

Wilt pointed to the costly, but never used, U.S. 521/S.C. 9 Corridor study that suggested U.S. 521 remain a “high-speed” highway, with slower local traffic diverted to new parallel roads.

“I don’t think people realize the extent of how you’re going to change this,” Wilt said.

Jenest agreed, but said he thought the changes would be good for the community and popular with residents.

“For us, we’re trying to make improvements that are practical,” Jenest said. “But your point (about parallel roads) is well-taken, we’re just concerned that because there’s so much development, you’d have to spend a lot of money to buy the right of ways.

“This is a new generation corridor study,” he said. “We’re taking the corridor study that was made with a broad brush and starting to drill down into the details.”

Jenest said he and planning officials had met with both the community and County Council during workshops several times since planning began for the overlay district.

He said, so far, County Council and planning commission members have been “very receptive” to the plan.

The proposal is up for discussion during the upcoming January planning commission meetings and a Feb. 6 planning commission workshop. The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the overlay district during its Feb. 18 meeting.

“That’s where you need to go to express your opinions or concerns,” Jenest said.

He said if all goes well, the ordinance could go before County Council for consideration in March and April.

Indian Land resident Todd Harding said after listening to the presentation and responses to residents’ questions, he thinks the county is finally moving “in the right direction” on the zoning issue.

Now he hopes, for once, County Council will get fully onboard with the plan.

“I hope it’s more palatable to them, but thus far, I haven’t seen much help on the issues from County Council for Indian Land residents,” Harding said. “So getting council onboard is going to be key.”

To view the corridor overlay district, click on this link: http://web2.lcni5.com/pages/pdfs/951/DRAFT-4240_521 Overlay_1218.pdf  

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151