Thinking big: Fort Mill Town Council votes down building height cap

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comDecember 13, 2013 

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    Jason Ford, representing Carolina Crown, addressed Council with an idea of putting up welcome signs to the town that recognize the marching band group for its world championship win earlier this summer. He discussed 4-foot-by-8-foot signs on Highway 160 near the Peach Stand and on Highway 21 near the new Riverview Elementary School, both sites of similar signs in the past. Carolina Crown would provide the signs.

    “This is something that would be no cost and would recognize the achievement,” Ford said.

    Council seemed amenable to the idea, but asked that the group work with town staff to present a formal plan in January.

    “One thing you’ve got to consider is what your sign ordinance allows,” Pieper told Council.

    Council called for a planning and transportation committee meeting before the end of the year to discuss a traffic light at Nation Ford High School. Council approved a manhole relocation and 85 feet of water casing to be installed in phase two of the Southern Bypass. They also gave first reading to an updated purchasing manual.

— Fort Mill Town Council moved a plan forward for up to 200 homes along Whites Road, while delaying a decision on an overlay for the Fort Mill Southern Bypass last week among a handful of votes.

Council passed first reading on a development agreement plan for three properties totaling almost 75 acres on Whites Road. The agreement caps development at “200 detached, single-family residences.” A second reading is needed to finalize the plan. A public hearing will accompany that reading Jan. 13.

Passing second reading at the Dec. 9 meeting was an ordinance setting a height limit on buildings near I-77. Council previously passed a reading that would eliminate a 60-foot maximum height for highway commercial buildings within 1,000 feet of the interstate. But the town planning commission recommended adding it back prior to second reading, citing the PTL tower north of Fort Mill as a possibility should a high-rise be started, but never finished.

At second reading, Council affirmed its earlier decision by eliminating the height restriction for properties within 1,500 feet of the interstate, zoned highway commercial.

“I think it’s short-sighted to think that someone in the future might not want to build a big tower,” Councilman Tom Adams said.

Councilwoman Guynn Savage said eliminating the restriction could help avoid variance requests, making development easier.

“I don’t want our ordinance to be punitive to people wanting to do business in Fort Mill,” she said.

Buildings could have exceeded the height restriction by backing up away from the road, but practically the only way to have large business centers was to take out the top limit, members said. They said there aren’t present plans for the types of building they’re looking to allow and they may not come soon, but they could come someday.

“You have a big corporate center coming in, you can’t have it,” Town Manager Dennis Pieper said of the height maximum.

Future planning also came up in first reading for an overlay in the Southern Bypass region. Council put off that reading until January. Several Council members said they supported the work that’s been done by a committee and the public for 10 months now, but they’d need more time to digest the final plan. The bypass overlay includes myriad standards and restrictions for properties within 500 feet of the bypass right-of-way.

“What you’re really getting is an overlay district that’s tailored to Fort Mill,” said Meg Nealon, who’s worked on the project throughout with LandDesign.

About 50 property owners will be impacted by the overlay, which includes land that’s in Fort Mill but also county property should it be annexed into town. Commercial, residential and other annexation is a constant in that area at present, to where Council and the planning commission will soon have a joint meeting to discuss related issues.

“We’ve seen a pretty significant uptick,” said Joe Cronin, town planning director.

Council members thanked the public and appointed committee for their work on the bypass overlay and didn’t offer reservations to passing it, asking only for more time.

“It’s all based on aesthetics,” Adams said. “You can have another Highway 160 or you can have a Ballantyne Commons Parkway. You only get to do this once.”

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