Update: Richland County Planning Commission missing minutes

COLUMBIA – With much of the public unaware, Richland County Council, on Nov. 16 2021, adopted an ordinance for a new Land Development Code (LDC) that would require every parcel in the unincorporated (primarily rural areas of) Richland County to be rezoned in one fell swoop. That’s over 110,000 parcels.

To make the Code fully operational, however, the council would have to approve the amended LDC and amend the zoning map.

As Richland County planning staff pushes the planning commission and county council to fast track an unpopular mass rezoning plan for the entire unincorporated area of the county, much information as not been transparent for the public – most noticeably, the minutes from many of the planning commission meetings, as far back as three years.

Council members, planning commission members and citizens have all asked multiple times for the minutes of the meetings to be posted.

Some of the missing minutes – dating as far back as 2019 – have not even been approved, including those from the crucial June 14, 2021 meeting when the planning commission recommended the new LDC amendments to council. Most of this year’s minutes have not been approved or made public.

Richland County planning official Geonard Price says the delay is due to an issue with converting the file and the program the county uses.

After multiple requests for the minutes to be posted, Price added “approve minutes from previous meetings” to the June 6, 2022 agenda. But there were no dates as to the meetings that were to be approved and the draft minutes were not included in the agenda packet.

During that meeting, the planning commission approved minutes, but during discussion of the action item, the commissioners stated that they were approving the April 4, 2022 (regular meeting) minutes and that Price only gave them a partial transcript of the April 1, 2022 work session.

No minutes have been posted for the entire year of 2022, including the June 6 meeting, leaving the public in the dark about what was approved at that meeting for the mass rezoning. In addition, the meeting agenda for the May 9, 2022 work session was never posted to the county’s website.

The following minutes are missing from the planning commission’s ‘Agendas, Minutes & Report of Actions’ online page:

2022

  • Feb. 7, 2022
  • March 7, 2022 April 1, 2022 – Special Called Meeting (Election of Officers)
  • April 1, 2022 – Work Session
  • April 4, 2022
  • May 9, 2022 – Work Session
  • May 18, 2022 – Work Session
  • June 6, 2022
  • June 6, 2022 – Work Session
  • July 11, 2022

2021

  • May 3, 2021
  • June 7, 2021
  • June 14, 2021 – Special Called Meeting (Approval of LDC recommendations to Council)
  • July 12, 2021
  • October 4, 2021
  • November 1, 2021

2021

  • June 1, 2020
  • December 7, 2021

2019

  • April 1, 2019
  • July 1, 2012

Many residents see the failure to produce the minutes as part of the broad zoning revamp that would result in significant impacts to their individual properties and property values as well as impacts to their surrounding areas.

Chapin resident Kim Murphy who attends most of the meetings on the rezoning says the rezoning as originally proposed would upzone en masse large portions of unincorporated Richland County to higher densities.

Along with changes to permitted or restricted uses, Murphy says the proposal includes assigning newly-revised zoning classifications that would allow multi-family, tri-plexes, quad-plexes and mobile homes in neighborhoods developed with traditionally constructed single-family residences.

The new LDC also gives incentives to developers by exempting them from environmental hoops, and if  the proposed mass rezoning process is approved, county council would lose much of the authority it has to manage growth through the zoning process now in place.

Currently, the planning commissioners are holding meetings and work sessions to develop a list of changes to the proposed zoning classifications that they will eventually recommend to council for approval, along with a new zoning map reflecting those zoning classification changes.

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