Pine Ridge, SC (Paul Kirby) – The town of Pine Ridge’s Town Council approved another reading of the ordinance to enact a moratorium on any building or development for 90 days while the town considers changes to their zoning and planning ordinances. Right now, because of the moratorium, you can’t even apply to install a sign because of the stoppage. The ordinance is already being enforced while the council finishes its approval process. Except for Councilmember Beth Sturkie, the mayor and all other members of the council voted again to approve the halt as suggested by Zoning Administrator Viki Miller.
A portion of the moratorium ordinance's introduction says, “The Mayor and the Town Council believe that a moratorium will not deny property owners the economically viable use of their property.” Rock Lucas, the owner of Charwood Country Club and developer of many neighborhoods around it, takes issue with that portion of the introduction. Lucas says his objections are not just because the moratorium is slowing a project he’s working on, but because of what it’s costing his son who’s ready to build a home for himself in town right now.
Lucas says that his family has been living and building in the town for over 50 years. First his father, then he, and now his son calls Pine Ridge home. Lucas says he and his children went to school here and have always tried to work with the town to make sure anything they do is complementary to the area. Now, just when his son is ready to start his home, he can’t get the necessary permits to do so. He has his plans and financing; he just can’t begin to get the permits until mid-July. Lucas also says that if the proposed changes in zoning rules are modified as he’s heard, his son’s new driveway could cost more than the house he plans to build.
Lucas’ family is not alone. Ray Areheart says that he moved to Pine Ridge Drive in the mid ‘70s. He bought some land and he inherited more. He now has about 50 acres. He eventually planned to give it to his grandchildren so they could build here to. Areheart says just a small strip of his is in Pine Ridge, but it’s enough to force him to comply with the town’s ordinances. His grandson Taylor has been working by himself clearing a portion of the land he was gifted; about 1.17 acres. He’s planning to build his house on it. Now, Taylor’s ready to pour his foundation but the moratorium has him stopped too.
One change said to be included in the draft of the new ordinances that concerns both the young builders is a section that dictates that homes built on flag lots, lots near the rear of a tract that require a driveway easement across the rest of the land, would have to be built to Lexington County road standards. This isn’t required for any other private landowners in Lexington County. Rock Lucas says if that’s included, those drives would have to be paved to the same standard a large developer must adhere to when putting streets in a new neighborhood. That’s why the Lucas family is afraid the drive’s cost could easily exceed the cost of the house his son intends to build. When asked if Lucas was saying that his son’s and Taylor Areheart’s private drives would need to be paved to the same standard as the roads in places like Governor’s Grant, he said that was his impression.
To Lucas, this is craziness and simply unnecessary. Lucas told the council Thursday they need to get all the stakeholders together and have a meeting to work this out. He later said that he and his family have never done anything to make the town look bad or hurt it. “What you are doing is wrong. How can you look at yourselves in the mirror?” Lucas asked the council members. He said they’ve forgotten what they’re on the council for; they need to focus on doing what’s right for the all the people of Pine Ridge.
A representative of the agency working with the town to review and suggest upgrades for the existing Zoning Ordinances said that these moratoriums are common in SC while ordinances are under review. He said moratoriums prevent an Oklahoma style land rush to come and get permits under the existing ordinances before they change. To Lucas this is laughable. “This is Pine Ridge,” he said after the meeting was over. “I don’t think there’s going to be a stampede of people ready to run down here and knock the doors down to apply for permits!”
Councilmember Beth Sturkie said after the meeting she cast the lone dissenting vote because she thinks this is unfair to the residents. “It’s going to be an undue burden on the citizens of the town,” she said. She voted yes during a previous reading but has since decided that Lucas’ idea is closer to what needs to happen. She’d like to see the town work with developers like Lucas and people who want to build a home to allow them input on how the Zoning & Planning Ordinances should look.
As the vote carried, the town moves closer to the day that their Planning Commission will present an updated set of ordinances for the council to review. Until then, they are quickly pushing forward with their moratorium and are not engaging citizens who speak at their meetings during comment times. That procedure not to engage is taught to elected officials by the SC Municipal Association for some very good reasons. Citizens who want to make their feeling known should contact their councilmembers individually. Their contact information is listed on the town’s website at www.townofpineridgesc.com.