Public hearing draws comments on comp plan

Gregory Sprouse, with Central Midlands Council of Governments, center, discusses a planning chart with Blythewood Planning Commission Chair Rich McKenrick, Saralyn Yarborough and and Planning Commissioner Malcolm Gordge. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood community was invited to hear a presentation earlier this month at Doko Manor and provide input for the Town of Blythewood’s Comprehensive Plan which must be updated every five years.

Prior to the presentation, Lizard’s Thicket catered a meal for the 30 or so attendees.

Gregory Sprouse of the Central Midlands Council of Governments presented information from the 2020 census and the town’s recent stakeholder survey, then introduced goals and strategies for implementing certain development objectives of the town.

“At that point,” Sprouse told the audience, “We want to get your input,” he said, pointing to boards on easels along the back of the room. “Those boards are for you to write on and put sticky notes on with your ideas and suggestions.” Sprouse, who is helping guide the town’s planning commission in the updating of the comprehensive plan, said, “We’re looking for specific input, that will help us track where things are headed.”

He explained that while Blythewood’s population has more than doubled from 2,034 in 2010 to 4,772 in 2020, the population density in Blythewood is still very low, with approximately one person per acre. Its home owner-occupancy rate is a very high 94 percent compared with the rest of the state, and home sizes are larger on average than homes in the rest of the state.

According to a recent survey taken by residents of Blythewood 29016, most are happy with these statistics and prefer Blythewood’s rural lifestyle over growth. The survey also confirms residents’ biggest concern – 65 percent said they are most concerned about the high rate at which the town and surrounding rural areas are populating, uncontrolled development, overcrowding and increased traffic. 

According to the 2020 census, those concerns are warranted.

The town’s rural roads, including Rimer Pond Road, Kelly Mill Road, Langford Road, Blythewood Road and Wilson Boulevard, have seen the most significant increase in traffic since 2000. That increased traffic, Sprouse said, directly correlates to the increase in the number of residential developments that continue to pour into those roads.

In reference to solving traffic problems, Rich McKenrick, Blythewood planning commission chairman and one of three candidates for town council, said, “We can’t rely on the penny option sales tax to do our long-range planning for us. We can rely on it to get the projects on that list  (McNulty, Creech Road extension and Blythewood Road) accomplished; however, growth has outpaced our infrastructure by a long shot. So we have to be thinking beyond what Richland County is already paying for.”

Former planning commissioner and town councilman Ed Garrison suggested the government might want to look to levying a property tax for solutions.

“The Town of Blythewood has no real estate tax. Without taxes, things that obviously need to be done, can’t be done,” Garrison said. “Our budget is around $1.6 million. What can you do with $1.6 million? Right now, the town manages what resources and grants it has, but it’s far, far from where it needs to go.”

Information from Sprouse’s presentation can be viewed at www.blythewoodsc.gov.

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