Council votes to rework LDC, slow map adoption

COLUMBIA – Wearing red and carrying signs that said: ‘Let us be RURAL’ and ‘Don’t Rezone My Property,’ residents from across Richland County packed the County Council chambers Tuesday night in an effort to influence council members to slow the mass rezoning process down or to shut it down.

And for the first time, some came away saying they thought progress was being made.

That progress began with a motion made by Councilman Bill Malinowski to amend the Land Development Code ordinance that Council passed in November.

“Everywhere the ordinance refers to zoning map, preparation and process, add the words ‘and text.’

“This doesn’t mean we are going to go back and start all over again, but we are saying that because the text (in the Land Development Code) actually dictates what happens to the map, then what we need to know and let everyone know is that what we’re doing in amending this ordinance is actually reviewing both the zoning map and text.”

While the Code is already passed, it cannot go into effect until the map is approved.

Both council members and staff said Monday night that it is important to create a campaign to help people better understand the issue and to get more information out into the public about it.

Malinowski’s amendment is not about passing the map, it is more about making changes in the code before the map is passed. Malinowski’s amendment passed unanimously.

“It’s important that we get this right and get it right the first time,” said Blythewood representative Derrek Pugh. “This [zoning change] has an effect on a lot of people’s livelihood and things they’ve worked for, for many years. It’s important for us to have plain talk with people. Lots of people don’t speak Land Code, so it’s important that we make sure that whatever avenue we choose, make sure we speak plain talk so people understand,” he said to audience applause.

The next step in the process is to send the matter back to the planning commission who will have a workshop on how to tweak both the code and the map, and to go back over the years since the issue began in 2017 and look at the process and decisions that were made to better understand how to move forward.

Malinowski pointed out that that task could be made more difficult with the fact that the planning commission hasn’t posted any minutes since March of 2019. It was suggested that the minutes be brought up to date so the commission members can study those minutes that pertain to the mass rezoning.

“We have not done a good job in my opinion as county staff,” planning official Arick Jansen said, “of communicating to the public and keeping them involved in the process. We need to go back and bring the information the consultant prepared for us beginning in 2017, and bring that forward, share their analysis of our old code –which is the current code that we’re still using right now – and their recommendation of things that need to be changed, and we bring those things to the public so they are aware of that consultants recommendations, and then we just go through the process again. It’s an enormous part of the process, that when you start to put your zoning back together you also update the map,” he said.

The planning commission workshop will be held Monday, May 9, at 10 a.m. According to state law, the planning commission is tasked with working out the process of how to move forward.

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