York County rules could slow growth on Lake Wylie

The County Council pumped the breaks on one of York County’s fastest-growing areas Tuesday.

Council members approved tighter standards on new construction in the Lake Wylie overlay district, covering what has become one of the most popular places in the area to live, to the consternation of some of its existing residents.

“The traffic going into Oakridge (Middle) School backs up all the way to the lake,” said resident Harriet Frazier. With more development, she fears, “Our whole quality of life will change.”

New homes have proliferated in the unincorporated area as it has grown from a few lakeside getaways to a burgeoning bedroom community for Charlotte. Residents are concerned the high level of housing density could impact the health of the lake, and eliminate any space for parks and other amenities by swamping any open areas with new housing.

Now, the York County Council will set new rules to control the rate of growth and its effects on the area, under a proposal that would apply to an overlay area stretching from Buster Boyd Bridge to Three Points along S.C. 49.

The rules would set open space requirements in what has become a densely congested area – including a “sliding scale” that requires new developments to set aside 25 percent to 40 percent of the area for greenspace – discourage mass grading, prohibit multi-family housing within 2,000 feet of the lake at its full elevation, and set a maximum single-family residence density of two units per acre.

That would be an improvement, said Margaret Blackwell, another Lake Wylie resident, because current zoning rules allow for up to six homes per acre.

“It’s way too messy,” she said. “The new elementary school is already full.”

The proposal passed 6-1, with Councilman Joe Cox voting against. He expressed concern in the meeting about the fairness of applying tighter standards to residents now after so much of the lake area already has been developed.

“It won’t have any effect on the PD (planned development) for Crescent (Communities), but if a farmer wants to sell his land now, you’d say he can’t,” Cox said.

Planning Director David Pettine pointed out the Crescent development actually falls outside the overlay district.

Councilman Bruce Henderson asked if the new ordinance would override any developments already making their way through the Planning Commission. County Attorney Michael Kendree said those developments that have already received approval will go forward, but anything that has not already gotten the go-ahead will be overridden by the “pending ordinance” doctrine if council does pass the measure.

“I’m not out to discourage growth or business or anybody making a profit,” said Henderson. “But if we don’t manage rapid growth, these things could cause major problems.”

What happens in Lake Wylie will impact the rest of the county sooner or later, he said, if the demand for increased services in the area forces county government to raise and spend more money.

“It’s not a question of if but when it will affect their pocket book,” Henderson said.

The details of the new rules have yet to be drawn up, and the county will hold a public hearing before the measure receives final approval.

Lawnmower track a step closer

The council on Tuesday also approved a rezoning request that would allow Phat Bottom Speedway to operate a lawnmower racetrack in a rural area off Jim McCarter Road. But the change doesn’t guarantee the speedway will be able to re-open; it only moves it from an area that doesn’t allow racing to one that potentially could.

Phat Bottom must now go to the Board of Zoning Appeals to get a special exemption for the speedway.