First approval given to Main Street plan

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comMarch 20, 2013 

— A rezoning that could reshape the upper end of Main Street was granted initial approval from the Fort Mill Town council last week after members heard and at times admitted to concerns about the traffic flow and parking issues that an influx of new residents could bring.

Applicant Provident Community Bank wants to rezone 2.86 acres at the top of Main Street, on the intersection of Tom Hall and Springs streets, for a multi-family development. Current zoning uses include retail and services similar to what’s on Main Street plus residential up to 10 units per acre.

The requested zoning would allow for up to 28 units per acre for up to 80 on the site. Apartments, condos, lofts and townhomes are possibilities with that zoning, which generally includes commercial uses as well.

Joe Cronin, assistant town manager and planning director, said specific plans for the property haven’t been presented to the town, but discussions have put the number closer to 64 units than the allowed 80.

“We’ve seen some concepts, but we haven’t seen any firm or final plans,” he said.

Any residential plans for the property still would require review and approval by the town. The town planning commission and staff unanimously recommended the zoning change.

According to the staff recommendation, the move meets several recently approved town goals in attracting residents to the downtown area and promoting higher density development there.

Jim Thomas lives behind the property and passes it daily. He asked the council to limit any new building to two stories and require a traffic study. He also asked the council to consider factors like needed road improvements, how nearby Hardees and Bank of America would be impacted by the traffic and where all those new residents would park.

“I would like you to be careful and not let the new development overwhelm what’s left of downtown,” Thomas said.

Several council members expressed similar concerns about parking and traffic. There’s some comfort, they said, with knowing the town still has some say over specific projects through appearance review and other standards.

“We need the developer to know up front that we’re going to be very concerned with what goes on,” said Councilman Tom Adams.

Councilwoman Guynn Savage said she doesn’t “disagree that there are some concerns” with traffic. And Councilman Larry Huntley said he recognized that traffic along Tom Hall Street already is bad at peak times.

However, council members said the rezoning fits too well with what’s being planned for that area not to approve the project on a first vote.

In January, the town updated its comprehensive land use plan, and for months there has been discussion on how to create more residential space near downtown with pedestrian-friendly routes to existing downtown businesses. The site up for rezoning Monday was one property discussed specifically.

Huntley envisions a residential unit along the lines of something he might see in Ballantyne. He believes the town will make sure it looks nice, and doesn’t overwhelm the remainder of Main Street.

As for parking and traffic, he believes the town and road planners can find solutions. He also said that the council has a personal interest in seeing they do.

“One more car would be a problem there, let alone 50 more,” Huntley told Thomas. “I live behind you. If it becomes a problem, I’ve got to drive through it longer than you do.”

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