Lake Wylie residents: Will York County vision plan really work?

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comNovember 12, 2012 

— The planning document many months in the making made its way back to Lake Wylie residents Thursday night. But for many, one question sat unanswered: Will it make a difference?

York County planning staff showed off a land-use plan to a packed media center crowd Thursday at Oakridge Middle School. Residents attended several prior meetings and produced unexpectedly high amounts of feedback in an online survey in creating the plan. Yet, staff warned, a planning guide isn’t a regulatory document.

“This really is intended to be a guide, a blueprint,” said Dave Pettine, county planning director.

Staff says the next step is to venture into regulation, extending the Lake Wylie overlay as one means of doing so. But some community requests – mainly downzoning properties without owner consent – just aren’t practical.

“It’s very unpopular,” Pettine said of downzoning, or reducing the allowable development potential of a property. “It’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Residents argued the latest plan doesn’t accomplish much if it can’t regulate what is built where in Lake Wylie. Much of the area is zoned by right, allowing for many possible uses. One resident said, “It doesn’t matter what we sit here and wish for” without a way to enact the plans, while another resident said allowing apartments or townhomes along Bonum Road would be her “worst nightmare.”

Winston Martinez, who lives in Autumn Cove, said when he moved in he was told a nearby area wouldn’t be developed for multi-family residential. Then, it was. Being told the county can’t arbitrarily change what’s allowed on properties because of a loss in value doesn’t sit well with Martinez.

“The minute they started developing back there, I lost value,” he said. “I got kicked in the teeth.”

Fritz Rehkopf has developed properties outside the Lake Wylie area, and said the planning document can be an asset to Pettine when other developers come calling. With a display of what the community wants and where they want it, developers are encouraged to bring in something they already see support for, he said.

“It becomes a tremendous tool for him,” Rehkopf said.

The plan sets goals of creating an identity for Lake Wylie, protecting the environment, improving traffic flow, adding recreation, steering development and more – all through proper land use. The frustrations of many could be handled through more local control, said York County Councilman Bruce Henderson, although not all residents might like the option.

“There’s always incorporation,” he said. “There’s always a way to have more say.”

Henderson said he, too, is concerned about higher density development and its environmental impact on the lake. He recently pushed a color code ordinance to the county level where all other councilmen voted it down.

“I’m wondering the same thing,” Henderson said, “how much hot water can we get into.”

Former Councilman Perry Johnston said town or no town, changing allowed uses of properties without property owner consent would never make it off the ground.

“A property owner still has the right to develop their property,” he said.

Additional community meetings before presenting it to Council are possible. The task then will be how to regulate what the community wants.

“We could be on target,” Pettine said. “We could be off base. We need that continued impact.”

The current land use recommendation is available on the planning department tab at yorkcountygov.com.

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