As I have transitioned to an active advocacy role, I have been making the rounds of the various local government bodies to learn and understand them better. In the last two months, I have attended governmental meetings in these jurisdictions:
- Anderson County
- Pickens County
- City of Easley
- City of Clemson
- Oconee County
I also actively monitor all of the major jurisdictions where our members are doing business. But there is nothing like being on the ground, particularly if you live and do business there. Several of our members have stepped up to keep an eye on places that I can’t get to on a regular basis. We could use your help. The Western Upstate Association of REALTORS® covers Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee counties. If you can attend a meeting or two every month, and let me know what happened, that would be an important contribution to our advocacy program. Send me an email if you can help.
Here are some recent issues we have been following in the Western Upstate:
Traffic: Traffic is a major flash point when it comes to opposition to new development. Nearly every proposed project has at least one objection based on traffic. Anderson County Council is considering an ordinance that will set objective standards for what developers will be required to do when their project negatively impacts the county’s roads.
Common demands from opponents are that developers should pay impact fees or widen the entire road. The challenge is that imposing these exactions must be in proportion to the development’s actual impact. And sometimes new developments don’t negatively impact the roads.
Other jurisdictions are looking at traffic as well, including Oconee County where they considering a requirement that a traffic impact study be conducted earlier in the development process. All three counties are discussing revenue sources for roads, although Pickens County is the only one with a dedicated funding source—a small property tax millage.
Your association will advocate that the standards for traffic mitigation be proportional to the development’s actual impact, and only required when the development negatively impacts the jurisdiction’s roads.
Pickens County is updating its Unified Development Standards Ordinance. The county does not have zoning, although the cities do. Their ordinance has been crafted over the years to implement elements of zoning without zoning. Their objective is to address large and intense residential developments. I suspect that they will be reducing minimum lot sizes. They also will be creating overlay districts to address development differently depending on the area of the county.
Easley has zoning, and the Planning Commission is working on an amendment to the zoning ordinance that will significantly reduce density in several of its zoning districts.
An issue that is likely to get some press is the Pickens County construction and demolition landfill. The county is considering expanding it with a permit from DHEC to go higher. The landfill has been a hot issue in the past, and it will probably be a hot issue again.
Why Do REALTORS® Care About Development Ordinances?
As our local governments incentivize new industries and job creation, our population grows. We have seen that in the Western Upstate. Anderson and Pickens counties are growing faster than 1 percent per year, about four times the national average. Oconee County is a little less than that, but not much.
That population growth puts demands on our region to provide housing, shopping, and other commercial services. When we don’t build enough to meet that demand, we create an imbalance in supply and demand. That is why we have an affordable housing problem.
We have also created an untenable situation for the largest part of our industry—residential real estate. There isn’t enough inventory for a health market. It’s not just about affordability, it’s also about having enough inventory to meet demand. In 2022, Pickens County and its cities issued about 1,400 building permits. They think that is a lot, and so they instituted a moratorium on new subdivisions larger than 49 lots. There are lots available now, but in a year, when those lots are built on, the housing inventory in the county will worsen. It also shift development pressure to neighboring counties.
How you can help: In addition to helping us monitor local government, I encourage you to become an RPAC supporter. It’s easy. Your association includes a voluntary contribution to RPAC on your annual dues invoice. Pay it, and you are an RPAC supporter. If you haven’t supported RPAC this year, I encourage you to do so by clicking here.
Michael Dey, Director of Government Affairs