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A proposed zoning plan for the Panhandle was stopped in its tracks last week, as Lancaster County Council decided to instead extend its rezoning moratorium.
The original plan for council’s Feb. 27 meeting was for members to hear first reading of an ordinance to add several business zoning classifications to the county’s Panhandle area.
The new classifications, designed and approved by a special Panhandle Overlay Committee, included definitions for 16 business areas, such as offices, regional businesses, shopping centers, medical offices, food services, car dealerships and entertainment establishments, among others. The plan was part of an effort to keep Indian Land’s thoroughfares from becoming cluttered with large, unsightly strip malls and scattered developments.
But council’s plan changed once the meeting began as Council Chairwoman Kathy Sistare announced the ordinance’s removal from the meeting’s agenda.
Instead, after consulting with County Attorney Mike Ey, council later added and unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance to extend a rezoning moratorium in the Panhandle to June 30.
Until the meeting, the moratorium had been set to expire at the end of April.
Under the moratorium, which has been in place since last year, council cannot consider any property rezonings in the northern end of the county except for those strictly related to economic development, such as industrial or corporate headquarters projects.
Councilman Larry McCullough, who represents Indian Land, championed the creation of a moratorium last year to halt Indian Land rezonings until B-3 zoning classifications were better defined. There are now more than 80 permitted uses for B-3 districts.
At the same time, a special overlay committee has been working for months to develop the new zoning definitions, which council would have considered last week.
The plan was to apply the overlay district to properties zoned B-3P directly along main roads, such as U.S. 521, S.C. 9, S.C. 160 and other major Panhandle roads.
Despite the fact that council removed the new zoning ordinance from its agenda, several county residents weighed in on the subject at the beginning of last week’s meeting.
Steve Harper had several concerns about expanding the list of commercial rezonings in Indian Land.
“We need to limit the number of things that will be allowed,” Harper said. “If you create 16 new zoning districts, y’all open the county to lawsuits. I ask the county to take time and do it right.”
Indian Land business owner Kevin Sexton worried the proposed zoning districts could harm the Panhandle’s chances for attracting new companies.
“With this overlay, we’re handcuffed then and we’re handcuffing businesses that are coming into the county,” Sexton said.
Sexton was also concerned there was not enough input from others in the community, including builders and developers. He suggested council abandon the new zoning districts plan and instead increase scrutiny on the zoning classifications already in place.
“If we just enforce what’s on the books already, I think that will help a lot,” he said.
“I don’t think it (the proposed plan) is fair to the citizens of Lancaster County.”
Derek Smith, also a Lancaster native, thanked council for delaying the reading on the overlay district.
“I do believe the implementation of something like this overlay district would be detrimental to the future of this county,” Smith said.