January 2nd Watchdog Report


It’s a new year and I am trying out a new report—weekly if there is news to share—less often when things are slow.  I don’t expect it to be slow for the next four to five months.  I will highlight three to five issues each week, hopefully one each from the three counties in the Western Upstate: Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson.  And from time-to-time I may share news from a neighboring county too.

So here we go.

Final Plats and Litigation in Anderson County

In early December, the Anderson County Council Planning and Public Works Committee, which is chaired by Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, met to discuss three important real estate issues.  I’ll cover two here.

In 2020, the county adopted an ordinance setting a fairly short deadline for real estate developers of subdivisions to apply for a final plat.  The development process can be lengthy.  Government red tape is part of the problem, but developing real estate takes a long time.  The county wants a final plat applied for within two years of approving a preliminary plat.  One developer objected to that ordinance.  Wilson reported to Anderson County Council that they will be working on revising their final plat ordinance in 2023.

Vested Rights

Councilwoman Wilson also reported to County Council that the county has not adopted a Vested Rights Ordinance as required by state law. 

In 2004, the SC General Assembly adopted the SC Vested Rights Act.  That legislation was a legislative priority of your REALTORS® Association.  The act required local governments to adopt a Vested Rights Ordinance to be adopted by 2005, or the state law would prevail.  The act states, among other things, that once a preliminary plat is approved, the developer is vested against most changes to law, ordinance, and regulation for two years, and longer if the developer applies for an extension. 

The developer in the final plat issue outlined above also claimed their vested rights were violated.  Councilwoman Wilson stated that the Planning and Public Works committee will work on a vested rights ordinance in 2023.

Highway 11 Development Restrictions

For more than a year, Pickens County has imposed a development moratorium in a corridor along Highway 11 from the Greenville County line to the Oconee County line.  In December, Pickens County Council adopted an ordinance restricting development in that corridor that extends 1,000 feet North and South of the road.  The ordinance limits subdivisions to 10 lots, prohibits multifamily development, and limits building height to 35 feet.  The ordinance also establishes a 250 undisturbed buffer on either side of the road.  Any disturbance in the buffer, including removing trees or building a driveway, requires approval from the county’s Planning Commission.

Oconee County is considering following Pickens County’s lead on restricting development on Highway 11.  Oconee County Council started considering a Highway 11 ordinance in November.  If adopted, it would restrict development on Highway 11 between the Pickens County line and the Seneca City limits.

New Larger Minimum Lot Size Along Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee Approved

Oconee County Council approved an ordinance in December increasing the minimum lot size in the Lake Keowee zoning district.  The ordinance requires a minimum lot size of 1/2 acre within 200 feet of the full pond contour of Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee.  The ordinance also sets a maximum density of 2 dwelling units per acre in the Lake Overlay District in Oconee County.  The previous ordinance allowed smaller lot sizes through clustering.  The ordinance only applies to new lots, not previously platted lots.

Local governments in the Western Upstate will be very busy in the new year.  New County Council members in Anderson and Pickens counties take their seats in January.  And later in the year, nearly all of the cities will hold elections for city council.  Your Western Upstate Association of REALTORS® RPAC Committee will screen the candidates and help inform you about where they stand on issues important to REALTORS®.

Happy New Year!

Michael Dey, Government Affairs Consultant