Pine Ridge, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Pine Ridge Town Council had a specially called meeting Tuesday evening that included a public hearing and the first reading of an ordinance that if approved, would effectively stop development of any type in the town for 90 days. The first reading passed unanimously. It would take one more reading and a majority vote of the council to approve the ordinance before this would take effect. During the public comment session also held Tuesday night, no one took to the podium in support of the proposed ordinance. Rock Lucas, who owns Charwood Country Club and has developed much of the land around it, and Earl McLeod, the executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina, spoke against adopting the ordinance saying that it’s just going too far.
If Ordinance 2019-24 passes, it would put a temporary moratorium in place that would stop the town and its council from issuance of Zoning and Land Use Permits. There would be no approvals from recommendations from either its Planning Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals. The town would not issue any permits needed to allow for building or development of anything. You wouldn’t even be able to get a permit to install a sign. Once enacted, this would stay in place until July 15, 2019.
The town’s Zoning Administrator Vikki Miller had requested the moratorium while the town reviews proposed modifications to its Zoning and Land Development Codes from front to back. Those codes haven’t been updated in many years and on March 26th, 2019 the town’s Planning Commission began a review of these regulations. The town says that they need a reasonable amount of time to do that. While the review is underway, the town feels it would be best to stop development completely. The ordinance clearly states that the mayor and council believe that this will not deny any property owners, “An economically viable use of their property and will afford town officials and the town council the time necessary to put into place reasonable regulations to further the aforesaid purpose.”
During the meeting, Developer Rock Lucas, whose family has been building homes and communities in Pine Ridge since the 1960s, said he felt it was strange that as soon as he started his latest project, the talk of the moratorium came up. Lucas said he had asked that some zoning changes be approved that would allow for a smaller lot size than the two units per acre the town currently permits in his latest project. He did this because he said today’s buyers aren’t interested in large homes or yards that require a great deal of maintenance. “We planned to cluster the homes a little closer together and then provide more community green-space with walking trails, places to enjoy your pets or family, and beautiful views of the golf course. These would be areas maintained by someone besides the homeowners. People’s lives are too busy for large homes and yards anymore,” Lucas said. “We are seeing homeowners of all ages downsize as their lives get busier and they just don’t spend a great deal of time at home. No one wants the hassle of caring for a large home or yard anymore,” he concluded.
Lucas said that his current property is large enough to add more than 450 homes under the existing zoning standards. He was only planning to add about 209 new homes. This would leave plenty of room for the green-spaces. “Since 1962 we’ve lived here. Now my son is planning to begin building his home here too. We’re not going to do anything that would make the town look bad or be less desirable for the residents.” Lucas went on to explain that the golf course at Charwood is a part of the area’s history and he has no plans to change that. “The town and the Lucas family have worked together for years,” he said. “There’s no need for this moratorium. There’s not a lot of people lined up to pull permits to begin building projects in Pine Ridge. I’m open to working with the town, but instead of stopping everything, let’s just sit down around a table and work things out. Time is money and even though it will take a year from the day our project is approved to the day we begin moving dirt, these three extra months is taking time away from us; That does have an impact on our bottom line.”
The second and final reading on this ordinance is set for another specially called meeting on Thursday, April 25th at 6:30 p.m.