Action Alert: Tell County Council to Adopt Staff's Article 3.1 Replacement
Greenville County is home to the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, critical waterways like the Reedy, Enoree, and Saluda Rivers, and increasingly rare farmland. These features help explain why the County is one of the fastest-growing throughout South Carolina, anticipating over two hundred thousand more residents over the next two decades. These expected changes highlight the need for a solution to what the 2019 Comprehensive Plan recognized: “Current land development practices pose a threat to the abundance and quality of Greenville County’s natural resources and environment.”
Article 3.1 served to address this issue by requiring developers to meet basic criteria to ensure their residential subdivision projects will not (1) detrimentally impact our roads and infrastructure, (2) destroy environmental features such as endangered species, or (3) drastically change the area’s existing character. Article 3.1 was an essential backstop to unrestrained sprawl, and SCELP has been working to ensure County Council adopts a strong replacement regulation that preserves open space, protects wildlife habitats, and maintains the character of our rural communities—all of which are specific goals of the Comprehensive Plan.
The road to a replacement for Article 3.1 has been long and winding. But it is nearing its critical end, and we need your continued support. On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, County Council will hold third reading on the proposed replacement, which just narrowly advanced in a split vote at second reading. The proposal represents staff’s recommended ordinance and calls for new rural conservation subdivision design standards with required open space, continued protection for rare species, and requirements for residential developers to share in the cost of essential infrastructure improvements to support the development and its residents.
SCELP advocated for reinstatement of the County staff’s proposed ordinance and continues to support its adoption. To be clear, however, the staff ordinance is a compromise measure that establishes the bare minimum necessary for preventing uncontrolled sprawl throughout the County. Prior to the contentious vote at second reading, County Council was considering a woefully inadequate ordinance that unjustly benefitted developers and eliminated meaningful open space protection and preservation of critical natural resources. Greenville County residents used their voice at the public hearing and narrowly ensured its defeat.
Yet, development interests are working hard to further weaken the replacement ordinance. We expect amendments that will negatively affect taxpayers who want fiscally responsible growth, small farmers who want to protect their livelihoods and ability to provide locally sourced food to their community, and residents who want to preserve our rapidly dwindling natural resources and wildlife habitat.
SCELP needs you to urge the entire County Council to adopt the staff’s recommended replacement ordinance without any harmful amendments at third reading.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Council members need to continue hearing from you on this issue! A call to your council representative (even if you must leave a message) may prove most effective. However, an email is also helpful. Tell Council that:
No changes should be made to the definition of undevelopable open space: Significant natural areas such as wetlands, floodplains, steep slopes, important habitats for endangered and threatened species, productive farms and forest lands and historic sites must be protected open space.
The open space target should be increased to at least 40%. With a minimum lot size requirement of only 6,000 square feet, allowing 60% of a parcel to be developed provides ample space to build new homes (not to mention that all parcels have some portion of undevelopable land that will count towards open space requirements).
Protections for endangered and threatened species—including their habitats—must be included in local ordinances. State law places the primary responsibility for land use regulation with local governments—and those local regulations must comply with state and federal law, including the Endangered Species Act.