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By Bob Montgomery, GoUpstate
Photo by Alex Hicks Jr., Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Changes are coming to the rapidly growing southwestern portion of Spartanburg County, and a new performance zoning plan that officials say seeks to welcome growth while maintaining the rural character of the area is moving closer to reality.
If approved by Spartanburg County Council later this year, it will be the county’s first zoning plan of its kind — one that provides more flexibility to developers and residents than the current Unified Land Management Ordinance does, Planning Director Bob Harkrader said. The plan has been developed as part of the county’s Area Performance Planning process.
Once approved, planners would turn their focus to another area of the county, one yet to be determined by council. Eventually, the whole county will be covered by a performance zoning plan, with different plans assigned to different sections of the county based on the rate of growth, the character of the area, and other factors.
In the meantime, there will be two public drop-in information sessions where the plan for southwestern Spartanburg County will be rolled out. They will be from 3 to 7 p.m. April 17 and 19 at
the Spartanburg Community College Tyger River Campus. The southwestern portion of the county is generally between Greer and Woodruff.
There will be several large maps, and planning officials will be on hand to answer questions residents may have.
Harkrader said performance zoning differs from traditional “Euclidian” zoning, the kind found in the city of Spartanburg, where all parcels are assigned a specific zoning classification that mandates the use of each specific piece of land. Any deviation from that mandated use requires a change to the zoning ordinance under Euclidian zoning.
“Think of (performance zoning) as a good neighbor ordinance,” Harkrader said. “It does not regulate land use as much as it does the capability of uses.”
The plan will make it easier for mixed-use projects, he said. “These projects, which combine residential, commercial and public spaces under one footprint, are tremendously popular in other markets, but have been extremely difficult to develop under our current land-use ordinances,” Harkrader said.
The plan also classifies roads based on traffic volume and where growth is expected. At previous meetings, planners have said some residents were concerned that new companies and housing developments that are popping up will bring more traffic to their roads.
Michelin North America is opening a 3.3 million-square-foot distribution center on Highway 101, and nearby Valeant Pharmaceuticals is planning a 432,000-square-foot distribution facility. Several housing developments are also in the works.
The plan seeks to accommodate the growth near urbanized areas like Greer, Moore and Duncan, and along the major traffic corridors to minimize traffic on feeder roads where many people live.
The primary roads that would have general development zoning under the performance plan are S.C. Highway 290 from Moore to Duncan, Reidville Road/Highway 296, Highway 101, Highway 146, Highway 417 and Highway 221.
Harkrader said infrastructure such as public sewer and water lines typically run along the heavily traveled corridors, which also help provide for growth there.
The performance plan also points out that some areas have more stringent compatibility requirements than others, such as buffering, setbacks, height, screening and rules for light, glare and noise.
The plan also establishes zoning districts. The restrictive development district requires non-residential activities to meet more restrictive compatibility standards, for instance.
“In this way, Spartanburg County promotes good development without taking away a property owner’s land use options,” the plan states.
The general development district is where non-residential activities are preferred. While there are fewer restrictions in the district, current residential uses are protected and would be given protection with buffering and setbacks.
Sherry Barrett of Upstate Forever, a group that seeks to protect natural resources from sprawl, has been following the plan’s progress, said she thinks it represents “a significant improvement over the existing (ordinance) and a step in the right direction toward more effective land use management across Spartanburg County.”
She said positive additions include allowing mixed-use development, a road classification system and updated sign regulations to improve aesthetics.
Residents can view a draft of the proposed ordinance and learn more about the process so far by visiting SpartanburgCountyAPP.org.