Planning Commission Split on Model Homes

BLYTHEWOOD – Two members of the Planning Commission who live in Cobblestone Park voiced strong objection to 10 or so single-family model home lots proposed by builder DR Horton for the tennis court area of Cobblestone Park. According to a drawing presented by DR Horton, the lots will be located on a short cul-de-sac street that will run alongside Cobblestone Parkway where it intersects with Links Crossing Drive. DR Horton spokesperson Andrew Allen, Project Manager for the design group Thomas & Hutton, said the up front location of the models will help home sales in the Primrose section, which is located in the back area of Cobblestone.

Randy Humphries, a member of the Commission, and Mike Switzer, Chairman of the Commission, both residents of Cobblestone, expressed concern that some of the homes in the 2.5-acre model home area, which would include smaller homes, would back up to Cobblestone Parkway, which is the primary entrance into the gated community. Their objection was that the back yards could be unsightly along that entrance road.

The Town’s Planner Michael Criss suggested that Thomas & Hutton might be able to design appropriate screening for the homes. Humphries suggested that the builder reduce the number of models by as much as half, and situate them on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac road facing the Parkway. Still, he said he did not want the models built there. Humphries said he did not think fencing or a berm would sufficiently screen the homes from the entrance.

Commissioner Ernestine Middleton suggested the builder meet with all of the Cobblestone homeowners to get their input on the proposed model homes section.

To accommodate construction of the model homes, the Commission is being asked to rezone the Town Center District portion of Cobblestone Park to Cobblestone PUD zoning district.

The number of Cobblestone Park residents who sit on the Commission (three of seven) and the fact that the Town Council is made up of a majority (three of five) of Cobblestone residents would not present a problem as they decide the fate of the zoning map amendment, according to Town Attorney Jim Meggs. He told the Commissioners that he had been informed by the S.C. Ethics Commission that the Cobblestone residency of Commissioners and Council members would not prohibit them from voting on the matter.

The Commission deferred action on the matter pending new street-level drawings showing how the aesthetics of the entrance to Cobblestone Park would be affected. Switzer also suggested that DR Horton schedule a meeting to allow Cobblestone owners to give input on this proposal so the Commission would know better how to represent the people who would be affected by this decision.

In another action concerning the Primrose section of Cobblestone Park, the Commission approved reducing the side setback for 220 lots owned by DR Horton from 5 feet and 12 feet to 5 feet and 10 feet as the Commission had previously approved on other lots last year near the same area in Cobblestone.

Resident wants to remove trees

Ashley Oaks property owner Frank Parks presented the Commission drawings and photos of five trees he would like to remove from his front yard because of erosion caused by the trees’ exposed roots. Parks said after the removal of the trees he planned to re-sod his yard.

Commissioner Middleton said she had the same problem in her yard. Commissioner Marcus Taylor said he had no objection to the tree removal given Park’s erosion problem caused by the trees, and Town Planner Michael Criss agreed that tree roots do compete with turf grass. Switzer objected to the removal of the healthy, mature trees, saying his personal experience with sustainable design would favor keeping the trees and letting the yard grow into a natural area around them. Parks said he didn’t think the Ashley Oaks Home Owners Association (HOA) would approve of that. Switzer argued that leaving the trees would be more in accordance with the Town’s Master Plan goals of sustainable neighborhoods.

Commissioner Malcom Gordge suggested he should recuse himself because he lives on the same street as Parks, and the Town Attorney agreed, saying he would supply Gordge with the appropriate forms for recusing himself following the meeting. However, Gordge continued to have input in the meeting, which is contrary to the requirements for recusal.

The Commission voted unanimously to defer action on the matter to give time for them to visit the site with a landscape architect to determine if there are other remedies for Park’s problem.

Landscape & Tree Preservation

The Commission agreed to send Commissioner Gordge, Criss and Park Architect Rick McMackin to the Town Council work session on April 15 to address council’s questions regarding the new Landscape & Tree Preservation ordinance before Council takes it to second reading. Council approved first reading of the ordinance at its the March 28 meeting.

Plan Review

The Commission approved drawings for preliminary plat review for Holly Bluff’s subdivision near Ashley Oaks pending the developer’s revision to show sidewalks on at least one side of each street and a better visual marking on the drawing that show 100-foot setbacks.

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