LongCreek residents appeal DRT ruling

It was reported in the Aug. 16, 2012 issue of The Voice that, on Aug. 9, the Richland County Development Review Team (DRT) had approved an application by LongCreek Associates, LLC to develop 332 housing units (including high density cluster homes and duplexes) on 100.7 acres within LongCreek Plantation subdivision. The developer applied and was approved for Green Code status under Richland County’s Green Code standards. The project, called The Villages at LongCreek, is opposed by many in the residential subdivision because they say the County’s Green Code ordinance has been misapplied to this project.

To that end, two LongCreek Plantation residents – Sam Brick and Monica Iskersky – have appealed DRT’s decision to the County’s Planning Commission, which may meet Oct. 1.

Brick explained that appeal to The Voice in the following Q & A session.

The Voice: What, specifically, are you appealing about DRT’s decision?

Sam Brick: Basically, we are appealing DRT’s rubber stamp of the developer’s sketch and concept plans, which do not actually meet the Green Code requirements. LongCreek Associates wants to develop three villages on this 100.7 acres, each one being a major county subdivision. They want to develop under the Green Code in order to get special treatment as a reward for setting aside, from development, some conservation areas. While the developers in this case have set aside some land in two of the villages so as to get relief from some development standards, they have then proposed building without consideration of any zoning standards.

V: What do you mean ‘without consideration of any zoning standards?’

SB: One of the villages/subdivisions has no primary conservation areas and is basically no different than any other subdivision in LongCreek. It has buffers that are already required by code and two neighborhood greens similar to many other neighborhood greens throughout LongCreek. They get credit for the greens as secondary conservation areas but there is nothing green about the third village. In actuality, it appears to look very similar to other areas in LongCreek and seems to follow the Single Family Residential-Low Density district in which it resides. There may be some minor changes to lot sizes, etc but otherwise it is a vanilla subdivision of approximately 59 houses alongside Longtown Road near the entrance to Long Creek Plantation.

V: What are some other ways you feel the developers fail to follow requirements for green development?

SB: There are several ways. First, they propose 80 or so duplexes in two of the villages on ultra small lots. In a low density-single residential community, there can only be one house to a lot, unattached, and set up in a side-by-side design. The developer did not do this and the DRT said nothing.

LongCreek Associates’ designs feature minimum lot widths that do not comport with the requirement for the zoning district. The green code does not mention lot widths as a reward but the builders took it anyway. Again, the DRT turned a blind eye to this important requirement of the Green Code.

Parking in any green development is a big thing, and the County’s Green Code requires the developer to address parking. It does not. In the RS-LD zoning district two parking spots are required for each dwelling unit. Whether the area is pervious or impervious means a lot in water management. Green is, among many other environmental practices, supposed to minimize erosion and manage water flows. The developer’s plan says nothing about this. To the contrary, this developer piles up dwelling units with no rear entries which would appear to increase erosion. This area of LongCreek Plantation consists of rolling hills that already exhibit substantial erosion on the little dirt roads that traverse it. The land obviously is not permeable.

While applying for green, these developers do not seem to appreciate the full significance of Green in their plan. There is very little they have included in their concept/sketch plan that shows green practices.

 V: What significance is density in the County’s Greeb Code standards?

SB: Density is a major column upon which the Richland County Land Development Code leans.

Density changes with the different zoning districts and the County Council manages our zoning maps through the application of these density provisions. The County’s Green Code rewards a developer who sets asides conservation areas by authorizing a bonus density. In other words, the developer can build densely in one area by setting aside conservation areas.

The developers have turned a blind eye to this provision and have tried to substitute another development provision in the Green Code that takes away the requirement for square footage minimums in exchange for proper green code developments. That provision is not to be exchanged with the otherwise very clear density requirements for the zoning districts involved.

 V: Are there inherent problems in the Green Code that lend themselves to developers skirting the requirements.

SB: Density is stated in the Land Development Code as square footage per acre with the square footage changing throughout the different zoning districts. The two provisions obviously conflict. The Land Development Code understands this problem and cured it with a provision that states when such a circumstance occurs, the more stringent provision applies. The County Council has seen this problem and they directed the Planning Department to come up with changed legislation to fix it. So far the Planning Department has not acted. Maybe this initiative on our part will help nudge them in the right direction.

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