Richland moves ahead with mass rezoning

COLUMBIA – The proposed mass rezoning of all the unincorporated area of Richland County continues to take two steps forward and one back.

The proposal currently rests with the commission, which is expected to finalize next month a ledger it has kept since May, 2022 of zoning text amendments it has voted to add, remove or change in the new land development code that will govern density and permitted uses of the land.

Planning Commission Chairman Jason Branham said he hopes to have the ledger finalized for council by the November planning commission meeting. One last work session has been scheduled for October 17, at 12 p.m.

The surprises in the almost two-year process continue to unfold.

Of the several text amendments the commission voted on at the Sept. 8 meeting, the ledger shows that the commissioners voted to remove the unpopular cluster development from the residential zoning districts. That amendment (to remove cluster homes), which was originally proposed by the commission, was placed back on Monday’s agenda by staff as though it had not been approved to be removed by the commission in the previous meeting.

The commissioners ultimately removed it from the agenda.

The Voice published a story about staff’s failure over the last two years to produce minutes of some meetings (some of which had not yet been approved) and its failure to post many of the approved minutes. Five sets of those minutes including the April 1, 2021 work session; June 14, 2021; July 12, 2021; Nov. 1, 2021; and Feb. 7, 2022 were listed on Monday’s agenda for approval.

However, during the commissioners’ vote they discovered that two sets  of minutes were not actually the minutes listed on the agenda — the minutes for April 4, 2022 and June 7, 2022.  But those meetings had been previously approved. And the April 1, 2022 work session (which was incorrectly listed on the agenda as April, 1 2021 work session) and the June 14, 2021 minutes were not presented for approval.  

The current zoning district that will undergo the biggest change under the proposed mass rezoning is the Rural district, which makes up the majority of Blythewood 29016.

The proposed zoning classifications and the maximum numbers of homes on the new map for lots/parcels currently zoned Rural will be based on the size of the lot/parcel. There will be three different sizes – AG (Agricultural), HM (Homestead), and RT (Residential Transitional.)

The RT classification is for parcels up to three acres. The number of dwelling units (homes) on RT parcels is limited to 1 per acre.

The HM classification is for parcels ranging in size from four acres to 34 acres, with the number of homes limited to .66 homes per acre. Under HM, the maximum homes on a four-acre parcel would be 3 and a 34-acre parcel would be 23.

The AG classification is for parcels ranging from 35 acres up and permits up to .33 homes per acre or approximately one home per three acres. Under AG, the maximum number of homes on a 35-acre parcel would be 12.

The larger the lot/parcel, the less the density will be in the rural classifications. However, no lot/parcel will have a density greater than one home per acre. The new map will reflect the classification for each lot/parcel The maximum number of homes for parcels currently zoned Rural but that are less than one acre would be one home.

All other residential zoning classifications will be based on an equivalency table. That means the density will be approximately the same as each parcel’s current zoning. So if the proposal is approved by county council there will be no up-zoning, and the current rezoning process would remain in place.

At its November meeting, the commission will vote on which items listed on the ledger will be sent forward to the county council.


Mass Rezoning Update

Jason Branham, Richland County Planning Commission Chairman

Last year, staff presented a proposed full replacement of the land development code. After review by this Commission and some modifications to the drafts along the way, county council voted to adopt the new replacement code.  Included in the new land development code is a new set of zoning districts. 

Every parcel of land in the county that is not inside a city or town has a zoning designation assigned by the county.  With the adoption of this new code, each parcel must be assigned a new zoning designation.  County staff prepared a draft map. 

Earlier this year, the Planning Commission was in the midst of reviewing and considering revisions to the draft map and receiving input from the public when County Council voted to direct staff to re-start the map drafting process.  The Planning Commission and county staff re-started the mapping process and began discussing potential changes to and ramifications of amendments to the land development code.

The new baseline starting point for the mapping process became the zoning district translation (or equivalency) table found in the newly-adopted land development code.  Any mapping that varies from the translation table has been very minimal and basically has been out of necessity.  Those variations have been discussed in our meetings. 

Additionally, our running ledger of mapping and proposed land development text amendments is linked on the county planning department’s website.  At our last meeting, staff presented the current draft map incorporating the direction of the commission. That map was posted on the county website following the meeting.

One important element that will continue to influence the drafting of the map is the process of proposing amendments to the text of the newly adopted land development code.  Several motions relate to recommendations to council to amend the text of the land development code in various ways. 

One of the ways we’ve proposed change relates to properties currently zoned RU (Rural) or RR (Rural Residential).  Most or all of these will now become AG (Agriculture), HM (Homestead), or RT (Rural Transitional.)

The 2021 zoning changes for those rural areas required much more land per residence in those areas, in some cases 10 times more.  The commission is attempting to balance the desire to protect our rural areas from the shock to the system that some in those areas would experience in not being able to subdivide their property in a way they’d been able to previously.

The commission’s goal is to finalize a draft zoning map and set of recommended text amendments at our Nov. 7, 2022, meeting.  We expect to allow additional public input at that time.

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