Change to Highway 521 overlay district Lancaster County’s July 15 agenda

Special to the Fort Mill TimesJuly 9, 2014 

— Lancaster County is taking steps to manage the growth along the 521 corridor.

The Lancaster County Council recently passed, by one vote, a new overlay district officials said is aimed at keeping Highway 521 from becoming another traffic-clogged artery like Cherry Road in Rock Hill or Independence Boulevard in Charlotte.

Council met with the planning commission in a number of joint meetings where it became clear the Council members did not want to restrict uses in the 521 corridor, but did want to enhance the area, said Penelope Karagounis, Lancaster County planning director.

The 521 corridor overlay district standardizes how the area will look. The overlay district covers Highway 521 from Waxhaw Highway north to the state line and Highway 160 from west to the York/Lancaster county line.

The overlay district will include better signs and landscaping, as well as sidewalks. The district aims to meet some of the needs identified by the Lancaster County planning commission, Lancaster County Council and residents in the rapidly growing Indian Land area, Karagounis said.

“Growth is here,” she said. “We want to try to accomplish some of the goals that we started 14 months ago.”

The restrictions required by the overlay district will be on top of the existing zoning for the included properties.

The overlay district will help create a nicer looking entrance into Lancaster County from North Carolina, said Charles Deese, chairman of the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

Deese said Indian Land residents want the rapid growth managed.

“They want more control over what the area looks like,” he said.

The overlay district is part of the county’s effort to stay ahead of the increasing growth within the 521 corridor, said Ron Pappas, Lancaster County planning commissioner and an Indian Land resident. He said the planning commission has worked closely with the Indian Land Action Council and other local civic groups to ensure the area retains its appeal.

“We are striving to manage the growth along the 521 corridor study area with stronger consideration than may have previously been given,” he said. “We would like to be a model for other communities.”

The overlay district will dictate the aesthetics, such as materials used and architecture, of any new developments. However, existing properties will be grandfathered in under the current requirements unless the businesses make any changes to their property, Deese said.

The overlay district excludes single-family housing.

The planning commission hired ColeJenest and Stone, a planning consultant based in Raleigh, N.C., to create the overlay district for Indian Land last May, Karagounis said.

Indian Land residents had opportunities throughout the process to remain informed and share their concerns on the overlay district, including a public meeting held a little more than a year ago, followed by open house meetings through December, Karagounis said. The planning commission also had workshops beginning in February.

County Council requested an amendment to the overlay district, which will be discussed again at the July 15 planning commission meeting, Karagounis said.

Once the overlay district is final, the Planning Department will need to rezone all the parcels within the area to include the new regulations, Pappas said.

The rezoning process and amendment of the overlay district text is tentatively scheduled for completion in September, when the Highway 521 corridor overlay district would take effect, Karagounis said.

Pappas said the hope is to create a pedestrian-friendly community with mixed use developments where residents can easily access amenities.

“We get to create what our world will look like in 20 to 30 years,” he said.

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