Richland County staff incorrectly states that proposed land development code will increase density in rural

Final vote on mass rezoning of Richland rural areas set for Tues. Nov. 14

RICHLAND COUNTY – During a public hearing last Tuesday night, Nov. 7, Richland County Council voted 10-1 to pass second reading of text amendments recommended by the County Planning Commission. The amendments are intended to rectify the 2021 Land Development Code (LDC) that would have increased density across the entire rural areas of Richland County. 

But county staff issued a press release on Monday, Nov. 13 claiming that the proposed text amendments is what would increase density in rural zoning areas.

A rural resident of Richland County sent an email to the Assistant County Administrator Aric Jenson, questioning that statement. 

“Is there data to show how much density increases with this LDC and Map?,” write Henry Martin. “If so, I would like to see [that] data …can I get that info this week?”

Jenson backed off his statement.

“There are no density changes in the Rural Codes,” Jensen responded. In the successors to the Rural zones, the PC recommended the following: 

Rt (Residential Transition) – 1 acre per dwelling unit (was1.5 acres)

HM (Homestead) – 1.51 acres per dwelling (was 3 acres)

AG (Agricultural) – 3 acres per dwelling (was 6 acres)”

County Councilman Jason Branham, who was the chairman of the County Planning Commission when the test amendment recommendations were made, provided additional context to Jensen’s comments.

“When Mr. Jensen cites the density a zoning district “was,” he is referencing the 2021 version of the code,” Branham wrote. “Keep in mind that in the currently governing 2005 code, the density is .7 acre per dwelling unit (before any open space density bonuses.) So, while the planning commission increased density in rural zones compared to the 2021 version, its recommendations still result in substantially less density in rural zones than is currently permitted in the 2005 code which we currently operate under.

“Understanding that greatly impacts perception,” Branham said.

On the surface, the 2021 LDC appears to be less dense. However, provisions are buried in the 2021 mass rezoning LDC, such as bonus density, clustering and other provisions that would allow more dense development in the Rural zoning districts (AG, HM and RT) and they would also allow developers to skip the re-zoning process that are in place now. 

“The defeat of the planning commission’s recommended text amendments would result in higher density,” said Kim Murphy, a rural Richland County resident and advocate of the text amendment.  “The amendments will not only decrease the density in the 2021 LDC by removing those provisions, but it will be less dense than the current 2005 code.”

Third and final reading of the planning commission’s recommended text amendments to the Code will be held Tuesday night, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. (NOTE: There will be no public hearing as was earlier stated in this story.)

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