Abney Hill Estates Gets Variances

Abney Hill map conv copyBLYTHEWOOD (May 5, 2016) – After Town Administrator Gary Parker gave administrative approval to Essex Homes earlier this month for a proposed sketch plan for Phase 2 of the Abney Hill Estates subdivision, the Town’s Planning Commission on Monday evening voted unanimously to delegate authority to Parker to issue a preliminary approval letter for the plat, but with conditions.

The vote to approve also included a variance from the Town’s land development regulations that will allow Essex to disturb (grade) more than a third of the 90,000 square feet of designated buffered land along a stream that runs through the property. The average width of the buffer zone is 50 feet. The variance specifies, however, that the land disturbance must not intrude upon the 20 feet of land next to the stream, Parker wrote in a memo to Essex Home’s management.

While Town Planner Michael Criss said the developer would be required to revegetate (according to submitted plans) the land area disturbed by the grading, Parker said it would take the Town’s employees time and resources to inspect and monitor the revegetated stream buffer area for erosion control now and over time.

Town Planner Michael Criss told the Commission that while the variance will not set legal precedent for buffer land disturbance, it will set design precedent for other developers.

“Why can you not leave the buffer undisturbed?” Commissioner Marcus Taylor asked John Champoux, Vice President of Sustainable Design Consultants, representing the developer.

“We would lose a variable amount of land and (housing) units,” Champoux answered.

In referencing Essex’s storm water management for the development, Criss pointed out that the 25-acre development will be the first low-impact development in the Town and could be a pilot for future developments.

The following conditions were imposed by the Commission on the plat approval:

  • Ownership of the property being developed must be resolved to the Town’s satisfaction (presentation of a deed).
  • The plat must be reviewed by the Town’s consulting engineer and by Richland County Public Works.
  • Parker must be allowed to review the response from the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) to a traffic impact memo issued by the developer’s engineering firm that indicates certain intersections near the Phase 2 development (Fulmer Road at Blythewood Road, Abney Estates Drive at Fulmer Road and Mt. Valley Road at Fulmer Road) will not be significantly impacted by increased traffic from the development. Further, any improvements mandated by the DOT would be incorporated into the subsequent bond plat or final plat and not hold up construction.
  • The Town must receive the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The disturbed stream buffer area must be revegetated.
  • The developer must submit confirmation of the calculations for the minimum required replacement of trees.

Champoux told the Commissioners that the project is on schedule to begin construction in 2017.