County needs to fix local zoning issues now, not later

-A A +A

As the March 21 ad hoc planning meeting at the Del Webb Library at Indian Land made clear, after three years of discussion and thousands of hours of effort, progress on the county zoning policy is, at best, zero, and may even be negative.
The county is reaping the results of 15 years of the use of zoning by land speculators as a tool to make money rather than for its intended use as a tool to assist in the implementation of the future land-use portion of the county’s comprehensive plan.
The county is preparing to update its comprehensive plan for the first time in many years. One can only hope the process will be open and transparent, and that candidates for Lancaster County Council will pay a lot of attention.
Perhaps then voters will elect council members with an adequate vision of the future of Lancaster County and a willingness to see zoning restored to its proper role as a tool to implement that vision.
What about the B3 zoning classification? The problem with B3 is the 88 uses permitted under the classification, ranging from restaurants to feed lots.
The difficulty lies not so much with the first user, whose intentions for the property are usually well-known, but with a subsequent purchaser, who could convert the property to any of the other 87 uses without review. The possibility exists that a fancy restaurant could be replaced by a feed lot.
The current proposal of 16 new B zoning districts, each with six or eight permitted uses, is simply unworkable, both politically and administratively.
The solution is to simply delete or change to conditional use a large number of permitted uses. This would require future new property owners to go through an additional approval process if they want to change the use. This will assure that land use is moving toward the picture presented in the future land-use map.
Fortunately, cutting the 88 uses in B3 down is substantially done already, since 45 of the uses permitted in B3 are already permitted in other existing zoning categories.
Removal of these 45 uses from B3 leaves only 43 permitted uses in B3 – better, but still too many.
Combining categories that really do not need to be separated, such as a veterinarian with outdoor kennels and commercial kennels with outdoor pens, and removal of uses that really don’t belong, such as ice plants, manufactured home dealers, independent motor vehicle terminals, motor freight terminals and motorized race tracks, takes the number down to about 25, which is beginning to look like a workable number.
The addition of separation requirements, such as distance to the nearest residential property; buffer zones, such as trees and shrubs screening the property from the road or other properties, and impact requirements, such as noise levels at the property line not to exceed 60 decibels, should provide a solution without needing to rezone a large number of properties.
It should be possible to put a proposal along these lines together in time for the April planning commission meeting and for Lancaster County Council’s final approval at the council’s second meeting in June.
This is the last chance for a successful resolution of this long-festering, much-mismanaged situation. The ad hoc group meets at 5 p.m. today, March 28, at the Indian Land Library.
Although I have served on both the original B3 committee and the new ad hoc group, the opinions expressed here are my own.

J.R. Wilt
Van Wyck