Council considers relaxing TCD regs

The Town’s Economic Development Consultant, Ed Parler, addressed Council during it’s workshop on Tuesday to move toward relaxing some of the building regulations in the Town Center District (TCD), an area that constitutes the center of town between Main Street and I-77.

Many of those regulations became standards several years ago when John Perry was Town Administrator. They primarily involved new builds and called for innovations such as settng commercial buildings closer to the street with parking lots in the rear of the buildings and requiring buildings in certain areas to build two stories that could either have living quarters in the upper floor or to have that appearance. The quest was for a more pedestrian/biker friendly town.

“But,” Parler told Council, “we have been exposed to several coorporations that could have brought economic development to the town that said those  regulatons increase the cost of construction. Reality is,” Parler said, “that Blythewood Road has 18,000 cars a day and we’re going to see more as the town grows.”

Parler said the pedestrian friendly side of the regulations is not an invitation to commercial development.

“The heart of the economy of Blythewoood is taking a right or a left off the Interstate, spending a little money and getting back on the road,” Parler told Council.

“Looking at the entities on Blythewood Road, almost nothing conforms to our standards. Consequently, of course, if there is any damage, they can’t replace. It makes sense,” Parler said, “to look at the TCD language and see if there’s a text amendment that would make what is here be in conformity, to allow other businesses similar to what we are. That’s probably the highest, best use from an economic standpoint.”

Mayor J. Michael Ross agreed.

“We’ve lowered our standards for regulating height of buildings. But we’re still up against businesses who want to come and put in a franchize or a strip mall with business that we would use and not have to travel outside of Blythewood,” Ross said. “Though, we don’t want to relax standards for lighting, landscapting and signage. We’re trying to stimulate economic growth.”

Ross said he has asked town attorney Jim Meggs to start pulling something together regarding text amendments.

Meggs said he thought he could have something by the end of the month.

“Economic development is our number one priority,” Councilman Malcolm Gordge said. “We need to seriously accommodate the businesses coming to the town.”

“But we don’t want Blythewood Road to become a Killian Road, a thoroughfare,” Councilman Tom Utroska said.”

Ross directed Meggs and Town Planning Consultant Michael Criss to move forward with a plan to relax the building regulations in the TCD.