Planning Commission May 21

North Augusta Planning Commission met virtually Thursday evening, May 21.

A residential rezoning request did not get a favorable recommendation from North Augusta Planning Commission during its meeting Thursday, with environmental issues, mass grading and road safety being mentioned as a few reasons.

The property in question is on Gregory Lake Road at Capers Drive and is around 88.2 acres.

Metro Homesites LLC applied for the property to be rezoned from R-14 large-lot single-family zoning to R-7 small-lot single-family zoning. The R-7 zoning would allow smaller lot sizes and thus more lots in total on the property. 

Planning Commission voted against recommending that City Council rezone the property. City Council still has the opportunity to pass the rezoning, despite the commission’s oppositional view.

The proposed use for the property is a town home subdivision, and there is a lake taking up a sizable portion of the 88 acres.

“The lake itself takes up a good portion of the property and in looking at this piece of property with an R-14 zoning was not really viable as far as being able to get any number of lots on there, so we’re requesting to go to an R-7, a small lot,” said Philip Green with Southern Partners.

Mark Gilliam with Metro Homesites said a large portion of the property will not have development on it.

Even so, some Planning Commission members weren’t too keen on the potential number of lots.

Commissioner Len Carter acknowledged the developers can’t build residences on the entire property – owing to the lake – but pointed out that the maximum density in the small-lot district will be 616 lots.

“Now I know that can’t happen because I know we only have about 30 acres out of 88 … but I mean, you know, that terrifies me, it really does,” Carter said.

Both Carter and Commissioner Tim Key said they want to see more complete plans before taking the chance on rezoning.

Commissioner Larry Watts mentioned that he believes the reason the project is being brought now is because the property was recently annexed into the city and can use the city sewer.

Gilliam said the reason the property is being developed is not necessarily because it’s now in the city of North Augusta.

“The reason why this property’s being developed is because we think the market demand and economics will justify us developing at this time.

“It’s not necessarily because it’s in the city of North Augusta, it’s because what we’re asking to do, we can get into the sewer and that makes you not have to have a septic tank,” Gilliam said, adding that the property doesn't really work for septic. 

Watts also mentioned environmental issues with mass grading of the property.

“Now the only clean water that we’ve got in any of the streams coming to the Savannah River in the city is Fox Creek Basin and that’s because it hasn’t been developed,” Watts said.

“You’ve got 1,000 acres of woodlands out here, so the streams are fairly pristine, and I don’t know how we could think that if we mass graded on a piece of property that’s got a 40-foot drop going straight to a lake that we’re going to be able to maintain a pristine state of water going to these lakes; and I think that, later on, years and years down the road, that it’s going to come back to bite us.”

Watts said he thinks Planning Commission would be “negligent if we advise City Council to accept this.”

Commissioner Bob Clark mentioned that small-lot or large-lot, the zoning doesn’t change the fact that trees will be removed and clear cutting will occur.

According to the staff report for the proposed rezoning, “the property is considered to be an environmentally sensitive area.”

Watts pointed out the environmental section of the staff report and said that city staff is “saying as strongly as they can that they have some very, very strong concerns about the development of this property, and I just think that we need to be very sensitive to what we do today.

“I’ve heard the argument that an owner has the right to do what we wants with his property, but that goes only so far. I don’t think the owner has the right to have a negative impact on the rest of the surrounding area or to the water that’s going to the Savannah River.”

In the end, Planning Commission voted 4-1-1 against the recommendation.

Voting against recommending in favor of the rezoning were Watts, Carter, Dr. Christine Crawford and Chairman Briton Williams. Clark voted in favor of the rezoning, and Key abstained from the vote. Commissioner JoAnn McKie was not present at the meeting, which was held virtually.

During the meeting, North Augusta Planning and Development Director Libby Hodges read from a list of submitted comments, all opposed to the rezoning.

One comment said the development would have a “detrimental effect on our property and its value,” and another stated that Gregory Lake Road “cannot handle another subdivision.”

Planning Commission chairman thanked Green and Gilliam for attending the meeting.

“Good luck with City Council. I think you’ll probably get some positive response,” Williams said. 

Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges. 

Lindsey is the North Augusta reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, and grew up in Hodges, SC.