Housing, Water Focus of Comp Plan’s First Review

COG: Cultivate Relationship with Winnsboro

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood’s Planning Commission took its first look at the town’s updated Comprehensive Plan Monday. Highlighting the major challenges of a residential, commuter community that has grown tenfold since 2000, the Plan looks at the needs of the area where population increases and the demand for water and sewer capacity have outstripped estimates.

The document is the story of future development in the area and was summarized for the Planning Commission by Central Midlands Council of Governments Director of Research, Planning and Government Gregory Sprouse.

“This gives us a look at the existing conditions on the ground today, what we see and what we do not see . . . and seeing how we want the town to grow in the following years,” Sprouse said, outlining the document’s scope. “You are in a unique situation. The town does not own water and sewer infrastructure and relies on other entities. It is imperative that water and sewer development goes hand-in-hand with (continued expansion).”

Affordable housing and control over water and sewer capacity were the two areas of most focus Monday. With a high average income, an aging population and quickly expanding residential developments, but no ownership of water and sewer infrastructure, Sprouse stressed the importance of “cultivating the relationships” with current water supplier, the Town of Winnsboro, current sewer provider Palmetto Utilities and potential sewer provider, the City of Columbia.

The first viewing of the long-awaited document, which must be updated every five years, was an introduction to changes by Sprouse and more of a summary for the Commissioners than a thorough examination.

“It’s just nice to see something. It’s been two years,” said Commissioner Mike Switzer.

Commission Chairman Malcom Gordge suggested that “work groups” come together to polish the document over the next weeks, so an error-free version could be offered to town council following the Planning Commission’s July meeting.

Outside of the overview of the Comprehensive Plan, the Commission also voted unanimously to rezone 636 acres of land, which runs along Community Road, to Light Industrial 2 (LI2). There was little discussion before the vote.

“This is a subject that has been discussed since I arrived here a year ago,” Town Administrator Gary Parker said. “It seemed reasonable to me to bring this up and make this proposal. I think we are all pretty versed with this.”

Finally, the Commission addressed the Town’s Landscaping, Buffer Yard and Tree Preservation Ordinance. Several tweaks to the expansive, extant ordinance have been discussed and minor changes to the language recommended. The changes would allow monies from the Town’s Tree Fund to be used for professional services directly related to the ordinance. Another change looks to document the removal of healthy trees by residents on their property.