Forest Acres objects to proposed zoning changes from Richland County Planning Commission

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Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 10:25 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 10:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The city of Forest Acres calling into question the proposed zoning changes for Richland County that affect its residents.

Richland County’s new Land Development Code (LDC) was adopted in November. The LDC requires that every property in unincorporated areas of Richland County receive new zoning that falls under the newly adopted code.

There are a number of these areas within the footprint of Forest Acres. Under the proposal, many of these properties would be rezoned to allow for higher-density housing, including duplexes and triplexes.

In a letter to the Richland County Planning Commission this week, Forest Acres Mayor Frank Brunson said that in order to preserve the character of many of these neighborhoods, the city is urging the Commission to change the designation for these areas to R-1, which is single-family housing.

“We feel that this could be extremely detrimental to the community and negatively impact property values,” Brunson wrote.

The city said that it has received numerous complaints from city and county residents about the proposed changes.

“What might make sense in one portion of Richland County might not make sense in a specific neighborhood of Forest Acres,” Tom Andrews, Forest Acres City Councilman, said.

Andrews said this could potentially price people out of the housing market.

“There are large areas with older housing stock on large lots, maybe unrenovated homes,” he said. “My concern is that those homes could be purchased by developers and turned into what is their highest and best use, which is probably a rental, like a quadruplex, duplex, or triplex. And those rental rates are going to be frankly more than what the mortgage may have been on the home.”

Additionally, Brunson wrote that many of the parcels that will be impacted in Forest Acres are already so expensive that there will be “no impact” in terms of housing affordability.

In light of these concerns, the Planning Commission said it will be amending the zoning designation from R-3 to R-2, which is most equivalent to the current housing density.

Richland County’s Zoning Administrator Geonard Price sent WIS a statement, which reads in part:

“The staff of the Richland County Planning Division has received a number of calls and emails concerning the proposed zoning designation for parcels contiguous or adjacent to the municipal area of the Town of Forest Acres.

Based on the current zoning designation (R-1) of the majority of the residential parcels within Forest Acres, along with the typical lot sizes of the area, a zoning designation which provides for lesser density seems to be more appropriate.

The original R-3 zoning designation for a majority of the parcels is being amended to a proposed R-2 designation, or the most equivalent to the current zoning of the parcel.

These adjustments will be done in preparation of the Monday, 4 April 2022 Planning Commission. County staff will provide any written comments to the Planning Commission prior to their meeting, including those from the Mayor of Forest Acres. The PC is scheduled to take action on the Remapping at this meeting.”

Andrews said the city appreciates that the Planning Commission is re-examining the issue, but that a change from R-3 to R-2 is “even more problematic.”

“R-2 would allow quadraplex, triplex, and duplex units and the possibility of manufactured homes,” he said. “R-2 would radically change established neighborhoods and overload our schools and roads. A one size fits all approach ignores residents. We would request more public hearings within the boundaries of Forest Acres so that residents can express their concern and for a change to R-1 for any areas of unincorporated Richland County surrounded by Forest Acres.”

In Brunson’s letter, he said Forest Acres understand the national trend toward creating more housing options.

Forest Acres Administrator Shaun Greenwood sent a statement on the city’s efforts to allow more affordable housing, which reads:

“Over the past six months, we’ve been working with a zoning consultant to overhaul the city of forest acres zoning ordinances and land development regulations. Specifically, council has asked the consultant to propose options for greater flexibility in single family housing.

This would allow for a greater variety of single family options on smaller lots. This would transition the current zoning code requirement that mandates a larger lot for a single residence. Part of the equation we are currently examining is how to meet this need of affordable housing without changing the character of our neighborhoods.”

The Planning Commission says that citizens wishing to speak on the remapping process may do so at its meeting on April 4 or the Zoning Public Hearing scheduled for April 26.

The new map is expected to go into effect on May 2, but is subject to change per county council approval.

Additionally, County staff is holding drop-in sessions to answer questions from the community on this issue.

The times and locations of these sessions are:

  • Garners Ferry Adult Activity Center - Banquet & Dining Hall – Thursday, March 17, 2022 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
  • Adult Activity Center (Parklane) - Banquet & Dining Hall – Monday, March 21, 2022 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
  • Gadsden Park Community Center - Banquet Hall – Tuesday, March 22, 2022 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
  • North Springs Park Community Center - Banquet Hall – Thursday, March 24, 2022 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
  • Pine Grove Community Center - Banquet Hall – Monday, March 28, 2022 from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
  • Ballentine Community Center - Banquet Hall – Tue, March 29, 2022 6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

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