York County lead­ers deny re­zon­ing due to bad roads

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Front Page - BY JOHN MARKS [email protected]­mill­times.com Rock­Hill

It’s a ques­tion of­ten asked in York County: Should over­loaded, poorly main­tained roads stop new home con­struc­tion?

If not un­prece­dented, it cer­tainly was an un­usual step when coun­cil voted Dec. 3 not to al­low a zon­ing change for 222 acres at S.C. 557 and Rid­dle Mill Road in the Lake Wylie area. Typ­i­cally coun­cil passes the first, or even the sec­ond, of three votes to ap­prove a change, even when coun­cil mem­bers have reser­va­tions.

Coun­cil voted down the Rid­dle Mill Road re­quest on the first vote.

The rea­son is roads, ac­cord­ing to coun­cil mem­bers and res­i­dents.

“M/I Homes has put to­gether a great plan,” said York County Coun­cil­woman Al­li­son Love. “They put a lot of time and ef­fort into this. The prob­lem with it is it’s a great plan for an area that will al­low 217 homes. This par­cel of land does not al­low 217 homes.”

Coun­cil Chair­man Britt Black- well said: “I don’t see how a builder could have done any more to be ac­com­mo­dat­ing. There’s just no room for growth right now in that area.”

Yet, if roads is rea­son enough to stop devel­op­ment, one coun­cil mem­ber won­ders where that line of think­ing ends.

“The ma­jor­ity of our roads are fail­ing,” said Coun­cil­man Wil­liam “Bump” Roddey. “So if we’re go­ing to base it solely off fail­ing roads, then we can just say no more build­ing in York County.”

TRAF­FIC CON­GES­TION WOES

Nor­man Hat­ley lives on Rid­dle Mill Road.

“I dodged holes on the road­way down here,” he told coun­cil. “I’ve tried to get a road re­paired on Rid­dle Mill, a hole in it in front of a con­crete plant. It took me about five months.”

New homes would mean more peo­ple to strain schools, law en­force­ment, fire pro­tec­tion, emer­gency re­sponse, he said. And the roads play into all of it.

Hat­ley calls the roads piti­ful.

Ve­hi­cles twist and turn along them just to avoid dips and div­ots.

“You have to ride with your hand on the horn just to keep peo­ple on their side of the road,” he said.

Con­cord Road res­i­dent Karen Clarke went out re­cently to a new busi­ness in Lake Wylie. She needed to travel only the short stretch from Three Points, where S.C. 49/274/557 meet, to the Buster Boyd Bridge. Had she trav­eled in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, she wouldn’t have made it.

“It was bumper to bumper, and not a sin­gle tire was mov­ing,” Clarke said. “It was com­pletely stopped.”

Sim­i­lar sto­ries are com­mon not just in the Lake Wylie area, but from res­i­dents near Fort Mill and Tega Cay when they’ve come to coun­cil in re­cent years seek­ing cut­backs on new home con­struc­tion. Re­gional travel mod­els, like one from the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Trans­porta­tion Study, show traf­fic con­ges­tion in the area from Buster Boyd up to Pole Branch Road is on par with the worst con­ges­tion in York county.

“I’m hop­ing by now, as our elected of­fi­cials, ev­ery­body’s had a chance to go down ... and see the con­ges­tion, and what we ac­tu­ally deal with day to day,” said Rid­dle Oak Lane res­i­dent Greg Wil­lis.

Roddey said, many parts of the county could make the same ar­gu­ment.

“The No. 1 thing that neigh­bors and res­i­dents come and pitch, is traf­fic,” he said. “There’s noth­ing we can do about traf­fic. We’re go­ing to be be­hind on roads and traf­fic for the next 15 years. Trust me. That’s a given.”

Roddey said he wants to see -- if county plan­ners rec­om­mend de­nial for a project or zon­ing change to al­low it -- more in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing a num­ber of homes that is ac­cept­able. Other­wise roads in Lake Wylie, Clover, Fort Mill and Tega Cay will keep any­thing from be­ing built, he said.

Coun­cil­woman Al­li­son Love, who lives in and rep­re­sents Lake Wylie, said she be­lieves her area is dif­fer­ent even among high-growth ar­eas.

“We have roads that, once you’re on that road, there’s no get­ting off,” she said. “It’s kind of like get­ting in a line at Carowinds. Once you’re in that line, you’re in that line.”

Lake Wylie is a se­ries of penin­su­las among coves. Mill, Crow­ders, Big and Lit­tle Al­li­son and other creeks cre­ate sin­gle en­trance roads. Lake Wylie has only one bridge, Buster Boyd. Other­wise driv­ers must travel to Rock Hill or into Bel­mont, N.C., to cross the Catawba River.

The Al­li­son Creek penin­sula has more than 50 roads and sub­di­vi­sions all with ac­cess to S.C. 274 only along Al­li­son Creek Road. One penin­sula north, Con­cord Road has close to 30 roads full of homes and a nu­clear sta­tion with just one ac­cess to the main high­way.

Love re­cently in­vited a large group of peo­ple to come try out a new restau­rant in Lake Wylie on a Fri­day night.

“A large num­ber of the peo­ple could not even get there,” she said. “They would have been three hours late.”

‘‘ I DODGED HOLES ON THE ROAD­WAY DOWN HERE. I’VE TRIED TO GET A ROAD RE­PAIRED ON RID­DLE MILL, A HOLE IN IT IN FRONT OF A CON­CRETE PLANT. IT TOOK ME ABOUT FIVE MONTHS.

Nor­man Hat­ley, Rid­dle Mill Road res­i­dent

RIGHT PLAN, WRONG PLACE

While the the M/I Homes zon­ing pro­posal was de­nied, the plan it­self was well re­ceived.

“You’ve got the best plan of any de­vel­oper that’s come be­fore this coun­cil for my district,” Love told com­pany vice pres­i­dent of land Scott Herr be­fore vot­ing down the re­quest.

A traf­fic study found the 217 planned homes would need a new traf­fic sig­nal out front, a south­bound left turn land on Rid­dle Mill Road and north­bound left turn lane on Bethel School Road. Pen­nies for Progress has im­prove­ments planned for those roads. Rather than wait, M/I Homes agreed to make the im­prove­ments.

That de­ci­sion flipped the county plan­ning staff rec­om­men­da­tion from de­nial to ap­proval. The county plan­ning com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended in fa­vor of the project, with the road im­prove­ments.

“The plan was ap­proved, be­cause it’s a great plan,” Herr said. “It’s less than one unit to the acre, with al­most 70 per­cent open space, and we think it’s a great model for what devel­op­ment can be in Lake Wylie.”

Yet be­cause of what al­ready is built, and a loom­ing de­ci­sion on the 842-home West­port sub­di­vi­sion at S.C. 49 and Daim­ler Boule­vard seek­ing a time ex­ten­sion to build, Love was hes­i­tant.

“What’s been al­lowed be­fore you is not great,” she said. “A lot of it was not great. It’s ex­tremely dense.”

Not every­one was sold on the M/I Homes plan.

“I’m also sort of won­der­ing why I’m here again,” Bonum Road res­i­dent Ellen Goff told coun­cil. “Be­cause we have been — we, Lake Wylie res­i­dents, have been — be­fore you again, again and again say­ing we can’t take the growth.”

Goff is a long-time board mem­ber with the Catawba River­keeper Foun­da­tion who wor­ries how devel­op­ment im­pacts wa­ter qual­ity through sed­i­ment runoff into the lake. She and other Lake Wylie res­i­dents have been out numer­ous times ask­ing coun­cil to stop or slow build­ing.

“We’re not anti-busi­ness,” Goff said. “We just can’t take it. We can’t get out on the roads. We can’t take it be­cause our schools are over­flow­ing. The lake can’t take it. Not all this con­struc­tion.”

SHOULD ROADS SWING VOTES?

Roddey said he be­lieves M/I Homes could ask for 50 homes -- or sev­eral hun­dred -- and would have got­ten the same re­ac­tion. That’s why he wants plan­ners to pro­vide an ac­cept­able num­ber of homes, on a case-by-case ba­sis.

“I’ve been here eight years,” Roddey said. “I have yet to see a com­mu­nity come up and say, yeah, we want 200 homes.”

What­ever zon­ing a prop­erty has al­lows cer­tain land uses by right. The Rid­dle Mill Road site still can have homes. The num­ber de­pends on sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing whether pub­lic wa­ter and sewer serve the site. Ini­tially M/I Homes pitched a plan, with a zon­ing, for 333 homes.

Coun­cil can’t stop by-right devel­op­ment.

Mill Creek Com­mons, for in­stance, once was a con­tro­ver­sial plan to bring a Wal-Mart and other busi­nesses to Lake Wylie. There weren’t pub­lic hear­ings or votes, since the site al­ready had zon­ing that al­lowed the com­mer­cial cen­ter.

“I have told folks from Lake Wylie the whole time, I can’t do any­thing when it’s by right,” Wil­liams said. “But if it’s a zon­ing change, I can do some­thing about that.”

Don Clarke, hus­band to Karen, spoke out sev­eral times to coun­cil and other groups last year when Duke En­ergy be­gan mar­ket­ing prop­erty along Con­cord Road for pos­si­ble res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment. He had the same road, en­vi­ron­men­tal and pop­u­la­tion growth con­cerns.

He sees pat­terns in zon­ing re­quests. De­vel­op­ers show ameni­ties and fea­tures while ask­ing to dou­ble or more the amount of homes they can build.

“Beau­ti­ful buf­fers, side­walks, in­ter­nal parks and swim­ming pools do not ad­dress the re­sult­ing im­pact on York County schools and roads,” Don Clarke said. “There could be twice as many schoolage chil­dren and twice as many cars. And that’s the is­sue.”

A pro­posed zon­ing change for 222 acres at S.C. 557 and Rid­dle Mill Road in the Lake Wylie area failed, and York County res­i­dents and coun­cil mem­bers point to traf­fic and the poor state of area roads as rea­sons why.

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