Spartanburg Herald-Journal: Spartanburg County Council approves land-use planning

Felicia Kitzmiller at the Herald-Journal reports:

Spartanburg County Council gave planning experts the green light to proceed with a land-use strategy that could guide development of residential, commercial and industrial properties in the future.

The council voted unanimously to approve the measures recommended by the Spartanburg County Planning Commission. The framework of the initiative, dubbed “Area Performance Planning,” divides the counties into zones with similar characteristics. Roads in each of those zones would then be characterized as arterial, collector or local, and land use regulations would be based on the classification of the roads adjacent to the property.

“It’s going to be a long, drawn out process to get there, but we think this is a good place to start,” Planning Commission Chairman Whit Kennedy said.

County Council also ratified the Planning Commission’s proposal that the planning begin in the southwest planning area, home to three of the county’s recent economic development announcements – Toray Industries, the BMW Manufacturing expansion and Bass Pro Shops – and important transportation routes.

Bob Harkrader, planning department director, said the land-use plan has the greatest potential to do good in that area.

“We’re going to try to get out in front of growth, which I’ll be the first to admit it, we failed miserably at in Boiling Springs,” Kennedy said.

To this point, Councilman David Britt said the county has been reactionary in terms of land use – relying on an outdated development code, troubleshooting problems as they arise and taking a piecemeal approach to land use. The council has debated land-use planning in the past, but always fell short from a lack of leadership and a deep suspicion of anything that might violate individual property rights.

Britt said he thinks this time will be different because of strong administrative leaders who have crafted an approach that protects property rights and realizes that Spartanburg is changing as a result of economic development.

Britt also said this will help economic development by establishing rules that industries can count on when purchasing property. In the past, companies were able to buy large parcels to buffer themselves from encroachment by incompatible building, but the availability of large plots is dwindling, along with the ability of businesses to finance large land purchases.

Councilman Roger Nutt said he is “extremely cautiously optimistic” about the proposal. Its success or failure will depend on the county’s ability and willingness to invest in areas of targeted growth and create infrastructure that will sustain and accommodate heavy use. If not, he said, it will amount to a list of regulations.

Chairman Jeff Horton commended outgoing councilmen Dale Culbreth and O’Neal Mintz for their work on the outlines of the plan and told councilmen-elect Bob Walker and Justin Bradley the proposal will represent a lot of work for them in the coming term that starts in January.

Bradley, who lives in Boiling Springs, said he supports the plan, and points to Hwy. 9 as an example of an area where infrastructure investment in advance of development would have been greatly beneficial.

“This new approach is based on clear, predictable growth trends in the county and will balance private property rights of landowners and needs of economic development,” Bradley said in a written statement. “This proposal also realizes that what works in one area of the county may not work for another area and allows individual communities to develop requirements specific to their needs.”

Harkrader said the next step is for the planning commission to begin classifying roads in the southwest planning area, an undertaking he said would likely take about a month. An update will be given to the Planning Commission at their Nov. 4 meeting. Horton said he expects planning recommendations to continue coming before the council for the next year.