Richland County mass rezoning re-do up for consideration

RICHLAND COUNTY – As the proposed mass rezoning of all rural zoned (RU) areas and every other parcel in unincorporated Richland County winds through a second year, it is approaching important votes.

The county’s Development and Services committee will meet Tuesday, May 23, at 5 p.m. to consider proposed text amendments to the 2021 Land Development Code (LDC) and a proposed map that would re-set future zoning for all land in the unincorporated area.

Though it had been in the works for years, it became evident to property owners in February 2022, when they received documents in the mail showing how proposals by the county planning staff might lead to automatic up-zoning of their properties and neighboring vacant tracts to denser zoning designations.

The staff’s initial plan – making major text amendments to the 2005 zoning code — had been partly approved by council in November 2021.  Then, when the zoning map portion of the plan was created by staff and mailed to owners of the property in February 2022, it became evident to property owners that it would result in a mass up-zoning and there was an outcry from citizens against both the zoning text amendments and the zoning map.

As a result, council asked that both the text amendments and the map for the proposed 2021 Land Development Code be re-discussed before proceeding further.

The process was restarted in April of 2022, with the county planning commission focusing on amending many key sections the county planning staff had recommended to the 2005 zoning codes.

For months, the planning commissioners made a number of amendments to the staff’s language. During that time, staff failed to properly note the commission’s amendments, which has led to confusion.

On Tuesday evening, the Development and Services Committee will consider all the amendments recommended by the planning commissioners.

“The meeting is only for one hour, but it’s important that the five council members on this committee see that many citizens across the county want them to remove the text created by the county planning staff in the 2021 Land Development Code and insert the planning commission’s recommendations,” Chapin resident Kim Murphy said.

Murphy says if the commission’s proposed amendments are upheld, they will stop the mass up-zoning of rural parcels, allowing county council to manage growth using individual case by case rezonings that include public input.

“If the mass up-zoning proposal is not defeated,” Murphy said, “developers won’t have to seek approval through council in order to develop dense subdivisions. Neither council nor the public will have a say.

”Recommendations made by the planning commission, if they are adopted, will remove the language from the 2021 Code that would allow manufactured home/mobile homes in already established single-family, detached residential neighborhoods,” Murphy said.

Original recommendations by the county planning staff would also allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes to be constructed or placed on vacant lots (or after tearing down homes) in established single-family detached residential neighborhoods.  The commission’s proposed amendments would remove that section, Murphy says.

Another amendment proposed by the planning commission would prevent the county staff from giving developers extra density in RU zoning after a set density had been approved by county council.

The public can attend the meeting which will be held at 5 p.m., Tuesday, in council chambers at the Richland County government building at 2020 Hampton Street in Columbia.

“The public will not be allowed to speak at this committee meeting, but it’s important that they attend and wear red so the committee sees that the public cares,” Murphy said. “This is an important first step in determining where zoning is going, particularly for the rural areas in the county.”

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