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Spartanburg County "Area Performance Planning"


westsider28

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Spartanburg County is taking the first small steps toward some rudimentary zoning and land-use regulations.  The plan is to divide the county into 5 planning areas and base land use on adjoining roads.  They plan to start with the southwest planning area, which includes BMW, Toray, and Bass Pro Shops projects.  I would prefer comprehensive zoning (like in the City), but at least this is a start.

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I thought this topic was worthy of its own thread. This so-called "land use regulation" could be an important step towards managing sprawl and the general onslaught of bad development in the western portion of the county and Boiling Springs.

 

This is the same concept that they've been talking about for years at the County level. I wish they had published a map online. If I come across something I'll post it.

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County Council voted to move forward with land-use planning

 

I liked this quote from Planning Commission Chairman Whit Kennedy, "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."

 

Good to see that they recognize their mistakes and realize that being proactive with lane-use planning and regulation will benefit everyone in the county.

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Well, it's a start!

 

I want to know more about this so-called framework. It seems to me like they are starting with an out-dated planning model, but it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

 

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.

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  • 8 months later...

According to the HJ, "An advisory committee for Spartanburg County's Area Performance Planning is set to meet for the first time this month to look at how to balance growth in the county's Southwest Corridor."

 

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20150705/ARTICLES/150709878/1083/ARTICLES?Title=Spartanburg-County-panel-to-look-at-growth-issues-in-Southwest-Corridor&tc=ar

 

 

So, progress still seems to be happening. I'm not clear what the meeting is about exactly, but it's related to the County's land use plans (or lack thereof).

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Yeah, I don't know what their deal is.  Everything they're talking about sounds like zoning, but they continue to insist, "There won't be any zoning. We won't zone any dirt. I don't see that coming out of this process."  How would any guidelines they create be enforceable?

 

There's also been a committee meeting about whether or not to restrict firearm use in "densely populated neighborhoods."  Complaints came from Hillbrook residents who live in the County.  The initial issue to me is defining that ambiguous term.  Zoning would clearly solve that problem, and make the discussion much simpler.  :dontknow:  (Annexing that whole area into the City would solve the problem, too.)

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  • 8 months later...

So it continues... this bastardization of a zoning process is still moving forward. Here's an article from the HJ...The best quote from is this one: "This is not a zoning process," Spartanburg County Planning Director Bob Harkrader said. "We are talking about land use regulation." .....Last time I checked, land use regulations are usually called zoning. 

Using Lexington County as a model for growth is quite possibly the worst idea I've ever heard. Lexington is one of the better examples of horrendous sprawl in this state. It is arguably worse than Spartanburg County in many respects. If this moves forward as the model for growth, it might help prevent the Dollar General scenario on Country Club Rd, but it won't do anything to address the sprawl pattern and traffic that everyone claims to hate.

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  • 2 months later...

  • 3 months later...

The "zoning" isn't being called zoning. It's being called "area performance planning." I guess it's more accurate not to call it zoning since they don't appear to actually use any type of zoning. The link below is the County's website on the topic. It's really not very useful in terms of explaining what they actually want to do aside from using roadway classifications to make land use decisions. That concept is extremely dated and will not result in positive change for the county. It will, however, result in continued sprawl and possibly help to concentrate similar land use types along certain road types. I hope to learn more details though... stay tuned.

http://spartanburgcountyapp.org/what-is-area-performance-planning/

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  • 2 weeks later...

As promised, I've learned quite a bit more about the process to bring zoning to Spartanburg County. More specifically, I got my hands on a copy of the draft Area Performance Planning ordinance language that the adoption committee is also reviewing. So, with that said - it's still a draft version, and my comments might change when the final product comes out. The ordinance is only going to apply to the Southwest planning area as identified on the County's website. It's reasonable to assume that the ordinance language could vary for the other areas in the county. 

That being said, it's nearly a carbon copy of Lexington County's zoning ordinance. I can't say for sure if it's verbatim, but it's damn close if it's not verbatim. Here's a link if you want to see Lexington's ordinance

The seemingly useless and lacking information provided by the Herald-Journal is not unjustified. The basic summary that is being provided over and over again is spot on. The performance based planning model will use roadway classifications to push development into certain areas. Specifically, most commercial and industrial uses will largely prohibited on anything except arterial roads - or to phrase it differently, higher intensity land uses will be encouraged to locate on thoroughfares. The so-called "Area Performance Planning" is essentially zoning that doesn't regulate land use - at least not directly. 

I should also note that I don't know which roads will fall into each category. I think it's safe to assume that major numbered highways like 29, 221, 296, etc. will probably be arterial streets. Based on Lexington's model - the street classifications are fairly intuitive. You could probably look at Google Maps and figure out which streets will fall into which category based on the line width for each street.

What it does do:

  • It establishes zoning-like regulations on land. Things like buffers, setbacks, density, height plane, noise, etc are all in there. These are common features of any zoning ordinance, and nothing in there will prevent people from using their property as they want.
  • It allows for a minor level of architectural controls (very minor) that will like result in marginally higher quality development. So, for example, the Dollar General debacle on Country Club Road probably wouldn't happen under the new ordinance.
  • It uses an antiquated road classification system (arterial, collector, local) that was a product of road/highway planning in the 1950s and 1960s. 
  • It encourages a linear, strip-based style of development and likely prevents clustering (depends on how specific roads are classified and relies on the map which isn't available to the public yet)
  • It requires cross-access connections between parking lots for commercial development (this is a very good thing, and if you've ever been on 123 in Easley you will understand what we don't want to happen in Spartanburg County)
  • It, interestingly, establishes (rather generous) height restrictions based on the size of the parcel. So if you've got a big enough lot and want to go vertical, you will be restricted to roughly 40 stories. The smaller the lot, the more restrictive on height. None of it appears unreasonable for a suburban development pattern.
  • Notably, it does put a lot of conditions on things like mines or landfills, such that they can't be located anywhere.

What it doesn't do:

  • It doesn't prescribe what land uses are appropriate for certain locations (ie: it isn't Euclidean Zoning), and therefore it doesn't allow the County to create commercial nodes, industrial areas, and concentrate development in specific areas.
  • It doesn't allow for mixed use development (which may or may not be ok)
  • It doesn't preserve areas to remain rural 
  • It doesn't appear to incorporate requirements to improve adjacent or surrounding infrastructure for new development
  • It doesn't change the game for Spartanburg County
  • It doesn't prevent Spartanburg County from becoming like Charlotte or Atlanta.

It should be noted that the APP ordinance doesn't include the subdivision ordinance, which will have to be re-written separately. That is a super-boring process - but its equally important. The test to me is whether or not you can recreate Converse Heights based on the final version of the ordinance. Converse Heights should be the goal for neighborhood design, and cross connectivity to future subdivisions should be required up front.

In conclusion, I think this is a decent attempt to create something better for Spartanburg County. I don't think it's strong enough to accomplish what I feel like I hear people saying they want. Further, I've spent a fair amount of time in Lexington County and the type of sprawl they have there is among the worst in South Carolina - right up there with Berkeley County, York County, and SE Greenville County. I would rather Spartanburg County not use that as a model for development. 

 

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Ok, I take it back - no Op-ed for me. After some more research and thought, I've decided there isn't really any point. There's too much momentum so it wouldn't affect anything. 

The ordinance itself really isn't going to be an issue. It will be a huge step forward for the County. Quite frankly, it might end up being the best zoning ordinance in the Upstate if the entire county adopts it over time - Anderson and Greenville both use a more standard euclidean model that only serves parts of those counties and they aren't particularly strong and their effectiveness is debatable. Spartanburg County is going about it the right way - they have convened focus groups and created an advisory committee and a technical committee to talk about this issues and what they want the ordinance to accomplish along with how it should be structured. Based on what I can tell, Council supports this direction. Keep in mind, though, that zoning is just one of the tools that is used to affect development. Zoning is not a plan. It doesn't identify a path forward. It doesn't establish a vision.

The larger problem, IMO, is that there is still a systemic lack of true planning at the County level (side note: the City does a decent job). The County's comprehensive plan does not provide any meaningful guidance for development, or goals/strategies/policies that would actually serve as a guide for future development. A good plan established a vision and provides direction on what types of changes are necessary to achieve that vision and is used by staff and decision makers to make decisions about development and infrastructure. With an 'only zoning' approach, everything is reactionary, and will continue to be going forward. Until that changes and Spartanburg adopts a more effective approach to planning, you can expect Spartanburg County to continue its hard charge towards becoming more like the suburban parts of Charlotte or Greenville - lots of traffic, subdivisions, and no real sense of place.

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  • 11 months later...

This kind of stuff cracks me up. Everyone is all about "my property rights" until someone comes in with a huge subdivision next to their sleepy country road. What's worse, is that the councilman in the article suggests that the "Performance Planning" ordinance may be able to address situations like this, but the reality is that it won't. It specifically encourages this type of thing - but it's possible that it may be able to get some off site infrastructure improvements that aren't currently required.

Being involved in the urban development industry, one of the things that I've learned is that people in single family homes generally don't want the land around them to change, and usually traffic impacts are the #1 proxy issue that they use to fight it. I can guarantee you that if they were going to widen the road it wouldn't make the residents any happier.

And what's worse is that this type of development is only going to keep happening, especially on the western side of the county. The thing that concerns me is that there is no growth management strategy from the county nor is SCDOT financially prepared to help deal with the infrastructure needs related to that growth. If you want to see what it's going to be like in 20 years, just head on over to Boiling Springs, or Fort Mill/Indian Land. This is a separate rant, but SCDOT has a huge lack of money issue due to our fiscally irresponsible legislature, and it's only going to compound the problem over time.

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  • 5 months later...

The march towards "performance planning" continues. One of the many things that drives me crazy is that the planning director continues to call this a plan. Zoning is not a plan. It is not policy. It's a regulatory tool.

Without an actual plan and policies in place that is then followed to the degree possible then it won't matter what the zoning is. It's sort of like going on a road trip with no map or GPS. You're definitely going somewhere, and you have a nice vehicle to ride in, but you have no clue where you're going or what's next.

http://www.goupstate.com/news/20180405/officials-to-roll-out-plan-for-southwest-spartanburg-county

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

County Council will vote Monday on whether to allow mixed-use development in unincorporated areas of the county.  There have been multiple developers approach them with proposals, only to have to tell them it's currently not allowed.  I didn't realize this, and it's ridiculous that mixed-use is currently prohibited in the county.  Hopefully the Council will approve this allowance (it seems like they will).  If it passes, then developments like Milliken Village will finally be possible!

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It looks like Spartanburg County is taking small steps into the 20th century.  Their lack of zoning and reliance on an outdated "land management" ordinance does not allow mixed use development, so they are now looking at an amendment to allow it. Apparently they have had to turn away developers, most of whom expect and rely on zoning as a tool to enable their business and ensure that everyone else is playing by the same rules. I'm in favor of the changes, but the overall lack of progress in this area is disheartening to say the least. Everyone talks about not becoming the next Atlanta, but nobody wants to do anything about it.

https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/2021/03/12/planning-commission-pushes-mixed-use-projects-spartanburg-county-sc/6892517002/

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Spartan said:

It looks like Spartanburg County is taking small steps into the 20th century.  Their lack of zoning and reliance on an outdated "land management" ordinance does not allow mixed use development, so they are now looking at an amendment to allow it. Apparently they have had to turn away developers, most of whom expect and rely on zoning as a tool to enable their business and ensure that everyone else is playing by the same rules. I'm in favor of the changes, but the overall lack of progress in this area is disheartening to say the least. Everyone talks about not becoming the next Atlanta, but nobody wants to do anything about it.

https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/2021/03/12/planning-commission-pushes-mixed-use-projects-spartanburg-county-sc/6892517002/

Haha, I literally just posted this in another thread, but this is a better place for it. Edit: Oh, you moved it here.

I'll take anything we can get, and approving this would be a step in the right direction, even if we're lagging in many other ways.

Edited by westsider28
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So it did pass, and here is an article from GoUpstate: https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/local/2021/03/16/spartanburg-county-oks-mixed-use-development-sought-developers/6943594002/

I'd still like to check into it if this hadn't been published.

Excited to see where this will take us!

Edit: a final approval is still needed, likely in May. Still a step forward!

Edited by Santi
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Its a step forward... but it ensures that we'll never see mixed use development in the unincorporated areas near the city limits. The minimum acreage is 10 acres, and it has to include single family? I tried to find the actual ordinance being considered, but after 20 minutes of looking I'm giving up. Based on the coverage in the HJ, it sounds "ok" in the sense that its better than not allowing mixed use development, but I'm highly skeptical that this will result in well-designed mixed use. The lack of design regulations is going to result in poorly designed projects that don't contribute anything to the surrounding area or the county. 

The County needs to step up and do something better than this. Beaufort County's form-based approach is a sight to behold, and it's making lot of change for the better in that county.

7 hours ago, Santi said:

So it did pass, and here is an article from GoUpstate: https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/local/2021/03/16/spartanburg-county-oks-mixed-use-development-sought-developers/6943594002/

I'd still like to check into it if this hadn't been published.

Excited to see where this will take us!

Edit: a final approval is still needed, likely in May. Still a step forward!

Thanks for the update and welcome to the forum!

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13 hours ago, Spartan said:

Its a step forward... but it ensures that we'll never see mixed use development in the unincorporated areas near the city limits. The minimum acreage is 10 acres, and it has to include single family? I tried to find the actual ordinance being considered, but after 20 minutes of looking I'm giving up. Based on the coverage in the HJ, it sounds "ok" in the sense that its better than not allowing mixed use development, but I'm highly skeptical that this will result in well-designed mixed use. The lack of design regulations is going to result in poorly designed projects that don't contribute anything to the surrounding area or the county. 

The County needs to step up and do something better than this. Beaufort County's form-based approach is a sight to behold, and it's making lot of change for the better in that county.

Incorrect.  The minimum acreage is 5 acres, and it doesn't require SFH.  There are different requirements for a "density bonus" (including min. 10 acres).  There are also design requirements.  The ordinance can be found here.  And a presentation about it can be found here.  The Agenda Center on the County website is where to find all meeting agendas and minutes.

Seems solid to me.  It's not perfect, but it appears to allow the kinds of suburban mixed-use developments seen around the region.  (Nexton, Waverly, Rea Farms, Birkdale, Avalon, etc.)

Edited by westsider28
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Sorry to seem so cynical/skeptical about this. I want to clarify that I am in support of this mixed-use amendment, but I think this just highlights how ridiculous the County's development regulations are. My skepticism is not based on the concept, but how it would be applied in Spartanburg County. Huntersville (Birkdale) has a form-based code, and Waverly and Rea Farms in Charlotte are based on the city's MUDD zoning district and other land development ordinances, which are quite strong compared to Spartanburg's.

For example, Charlotte has the Urban Street Design Guidelines, the Tree Ordinance, and Stormwater ordinance that each contribute in their own way to the way those projects are built. Street design itself can make or break a mixed use project. Just look at Ayrsley. The USDG policies resulted in changes to the city's subdivision ordinance that require context-sensitive street designs and street networks that accommodate all modes. Further, Waverly and Rea Farms necessitated widening Providence Road to 8+ lanes of traffic, effectively killing any chance of external walkability around otherwise more or less walkable developments.

Ostensibly, any developer would want to build good streets as a part of their project. It isn't clear to me based on that ordinance amendment what determines street dimensions. So, if the internal street requirements are based on Spartanburg County's subdivision ordinance streets, then the result is going to be very wide and therefore pedestrian unfriendly streets.  That said, I am admittedly not familiar with Spartanburg's regulations so perhaps it's an assumption on my part that the County's development ordinances don't have the teeth that I think would be needed to ensure we can get developments of high quality across the board. I'm basing my opinion purely on many decades of observation of development in the county. I suspect y'all on this forum are more familiar with those processes than me, so if anyone has information that can help me understand how the pieces fit together here I'd love to hear it.

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  • 10 months later...

Some items on Monday's County Council agenda that demonstrate how clunky this whole system is.  First is an ordinance to amend the Performance Zoning Map to change the Road Classification of North Town Drive from local to collector.  This is likely to allow a higher density development on the big grassy site near Hearon Circle that was recently for-sale.  This is basically a rezoning without technically being a rezoning, and shows how foolish the road-based zoning system is.

The second seems borderline illegal to me.  It's an ordinance to amend Section 2.04 Land Development in the vicinity of the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport to allow manufactured homes in limited circumstances.  This seems to be a butt-covering for a development (City View) that is already complete (but technically shouldn't have been allowed).  The ordinance is so specific, that it can only be applied to this one development: "a. To ensure compatibility with adjacent land uses, Manufactured Home Parks will be allowed where the Park is over 45 acres and contiguous to a municipality".  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought zoning had to be broadly applicable and not target single parcels/developments with unique regulations.

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