Council Wants More from Comp Plan

BLYTHEWOOD – After months of revisions by the Planning Commission, a final draft of the town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan was presented in detail to Council by Gregory Sprouse, Director of Research for Planning and Development at Central Midlands Council of Governments (COG) during Tuesday morning’s work session.

Although Sprouse has spent weeks shaping the Commissioners’ suggestions into a document for Council’s approval, after hearing the suggestions the Commission made to the eight elements of the Plan (population, economic development, natural resources, cultural resources, community facilities, housing and land use) Mayor J. Michael Ross and the other members of Council thanked the Commissioners for their work on the plan but asked for further revisions before it comes before them for a final vote at their next regular meeting on Sept. 28.

Councilman Tom Utroska took exception to wording in the document that he said, “made things sound more important than they are.”

As an example, he pointed to the document’s repeated use of the phrase “tremendous growth.”

“Our growth is substantial, but not tremendous,” Utroska said, “and a lot of that growth came through annexation.”

He said many of his problems with the document have to do with “perception and terminology that I think the public will misinterpret,” such as the repeated use the word “need.”

“It says these things are ‘needs,’ but I think they are more opportunities than needs. A need says that is something we’ve got to have, not something we want. (In the document) we say we’re going to have a ‘park and ride’ on the west side of the interstate where the old community center is. That’s not realistic,” Utroska said. “We should say, ‘When we get bus service, we need to coordinate a park and ride with the bus service.’ But we don’t even know where that will be.”

Councilman Bob Mangone said he felt the Plan had not adequately addressed the community’s public transportation and recreation needs.

“Blythewood has not benefitted from the Penny Tax in terms of the public transportation section,” Mangone said. “To me, it’s criminal to have a population that has been identified as a growing population, yet no effort whatsoever has been made by regional government, the COG or Richland County to do anything about public transportation (for Blythewood). Give us a couple of buses. Throw us a bone,” Mangone chided. “So many people could benefit from bus transportation out here. That’s a real shortcoming.”

Even more important to Mangone was the Comp Plan’s lack of attention to the community’s recreation needs.

“We have only one recreational facility and it is not adequate,” Mangone said. “I don’t see a recreation complex in the town. Our recreation facilities haven’t kept up with our increasing population. Our population has increased by 10 times, but the (recreation facilities) have not increased since we had 170 people in the town.”

Councilman Eddie Baughman agreed, citing Blythewood’s growth since 2000, “but our fire department and EMS (provided through intergovernmental agreements) have not grown at all since 2000. We need to ask for more adequate protection. The Sheriff’s Department is the only service that has grown.”

“We pay for those services,” Utroska reminded Council, “and our additional population (should) pay for more protection. We should get what we’re paying for.”

Sprouse explained that the Comp Plan is the general policy guide to help the Town plan for future short- and long-term goals and that it serves as the enabling ordinance for zoning in the town.

“The proposed amended Comp Plan incorporates the Town’s Master Plan with revelations about what’s been done and what still needs to be done,” Sprouse said.

He pointed out that Blythewood has an aging population and that the town’s amenities appeal to retirees.

“You need to be adopting policies to accommodate this population,” he said.

Sprouse said the amended Plan calls for, among other things, an economic development plan, better signage, a marketing plan for the town and a more traditional town look. He also said that because of the town’s affluence, it has not adequately addressed affordable housing, but that it can be addressed by providing more multi-family housing.

It is expected that Council will send the Plan back to the Planning Commission on Sept. 28 for further revisions.

 

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