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Land use: Council scraps proposal to limit density in projects

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council tabled a proposed amendment to the “flexible design district” this week, extending a debate that has been going on for almost two years.

County planning director Boyd Johnson proposed the new zoning classification in 2014 after the state Supreme Court ruled a “planned development” must have a mix of commercial and residential uses. Prior to that, the county used planned developments to provide exceptions to the rules that applied in other zoning districts. A “flexible design district” can have a single use, giving counties a means to work around the court ruling.

Members of the Planning Commission expressed concern about increased density under the “flexible design district” and recommended rules saying no building lot can be less than 5,000 square feet. The commission also suggested minimum open space requirements and inclusion of affordable housing to justify increasing density. A proposed amendment to the ordinance said residential developments meeting requirements will be allowed a 100 percent increase in the number of units allowed per acre provided 20 percent of the site is maintained as open space.

Council Member Steve Goggans said this week the proposed ordinance may create more problems than it solves. “For all the good intentions this amendment offers up, I think it’s going to inhibit development,” Goggans said. “It will be hard to manage and enforce.”

Johnson said the intent of the ordinance was to encourage developers to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do: affordable housing, parks and open spaces. “It allows the possibility of a higher density in a development deemed to be a good use,” Johnson said.

Council Member Austin Beard found flaws with the proposed amendment too. “We have somewhat removed flexible from the ‘flexible district’. There’s no guarantee of getting a 100 percent increase in density,” he said before moving to table the proposal.

In other business, the council named Goggans, Johnson, Mark Hoeweler of the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments and Council Members John Thomas and Ron Charlton to an ad hoc committee to recommend the scope of work to be done in a Highway 17 corridor study. The Grand Strand Area Transportation Study policy committee approved $100,000 for an update of a 2003 corridor study.

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