Guest Editorial: Red Gate proposal unacceptable

As you might have read in this paper, at the June 3, 2019 Blythewood Planning Commission meeting, the following agenda item was approved:

Utroska

“Zoning Map Amendment – – Rezone portion from (PD) Planned Development to (PD) Planned Development (Blythewood/Muller/Syrup Mill Roads) (TMS# 15100-10-01/TMS# 12600-02-01/TMS# 12700-01-21)”

This proposed development started with Richland County back in 2007 and was annexed in to Blythewood thereafter; it went undeveloped for 10+ years due to the economic/real estate downturn and (alleged) lack of water availability. According to my notes of Aug. 9, 2007, several Town residents have objected to the proposal since inception.

At the Dec. 3, 2018 Planning Commission meeting there was a “Discussion Item” on the agenda concerning the Red Gate development.  During this discussion, the Chair suggested that the PD be rezoned to Rural since there had been no action in all these years (too bad they didn’t go ahead and do that).

In the end, Town Administrator Brian Cook, the owner (Arthur State Bank) and others present at the hearing stated that there was an ongoing interest in the PD and that water was now available to develop the property.

With that being said, Mr. Cook stated that he would get together “with all of the interested parties” and re-work the outstanding PDD.  I was present at that meeting and stated that the residents were also part of the “interested parties” and should be included in that discussion.

To my knowledge, no residents were involved in the “restated PDD” that was presented at the June 3, 2019 meeting.

I did take exception to the following items contained in the PD:

  1. To my knowledge, no traffic study has ever been done to see if Syrup Mill Road can accommodate the additional traffic from this PDD.
  2. The side setback requirements are only 5 feet which I think encourages “clear cutting” the development, rather than planning each lot individually.
  3. There is a mix of 10,000 and 20,000 square foot lots – which is counter to the Town’s recent decisions to require a minimum of 20,000 square foot lots.
  4. The developer may transfer densities at his option; in other words, the developer may “swap the location” of individual lots and intersperse different size lots on the same street.*
  5. “The zoning administrator shall have authority to deviate up to 10% from any zoning requirement subject to compensate for practical difficulty on a site.”*

*Note on 4 and 5:   A PDD allows the Planning Commission/Town to grant the developer exemptions to “published zoning requirements” as part & parcel to the submitted plan.  I have never seen a PDD where the Developer and/or Zoning Administrator (Town Administrator) are allowed this leeway, after the PD has been approved.

The Town and the developer are to be commended for changing the original PDD to eliminate apartments. However, I question why the PDD was re-written with all the anomalies and why the Planning Commission agreed to them.

As I understand, the Town has no obligation to approve this “re-write” or accept the Original PDD. In my opinion, Town Council should return this proposal to the Planning Commission as unacceptable.