Home Design Rules

If developers want to build in Dorchester County, they should prepare to follow stricter guidelines that county leaders say will preserve local character and ensure neighborhoods are built safely and adequately.

On Monday council members passed a resolution outlining specific design guidelines for subdivisions and other future land development across the county.

“We have to hold developers accountable for their impacts,” Council Chairman Jay Byars said in a press release. “Future developments need to make our county better by creating open space, conserving green space, and mitigating their impacts on the citizens.”

Previously the county maintained loose design guidelines enforced through development agreements.

But the lengthier list is not meant to be constraining and is not a Unified Development Ordinance, according to Councilman David Chinnis, who criticized the Town of Summerville’s current work to create an updated UDO.

“It excludes people, in my opinion, and we weren’t looking for that,” he said.

The guidelines are meant to prevent “substandard product” from popping up across the area.

“We don’t want people to come to Dorchester County because they can’t build what they want (elsewhere),” Chinnis said.

Byars agreed.

“These design principles go a long way to ensuring what’s built in the county is of high quality and enhances our way of life,” he said.

The guidelines remain fluid in nature and not so strict that they prevent affordable housing.

“I don’t think that we want to make it so that we price individuals out of buying a home,” Chinnis said. “I don’t want to have a bunch of half million dollar homes, but I also don’t want to build tenements.”

Rather than resorting to moratoriums—halts on development which Chinnis called ineffective—he said if necessary, developers could still work with county staff to compromise on certain design standards.

“In the end, they can come and say, ‘We don’t really want to do that,’ and if staff makes a recommendation and they’re OK, then we’re OK,” Chinnis said.

The guidelines stem from a collaborative effort among county staff, council and industry professionals. Chinnis said the county worked with Thomas and Hutton on the project, which has been in the works for more than a year.

“This took a lot of work and a lot of effort on a lot of people and came from a lot of meetings and phone calls,” Chinnis said.

County officials said all too often they’ve seen developments complete but still lacking certain vital components. The Cane Bay development in Berkeley County came to Chinnis’ mind as an example. The large subdivision was constructed without a fire station.

“That’s just nuts,” he said.

But through the new guidelines Dorchester County wants to make certain that doesn’t happen in this jurisdiction by “ensuring land is set aside for new fire stations, schools, parks, and other community facilities when necessary to adequately support new development,” according to a county press release.

Other principles focus on preserving and promoting the health, safety, convenience, economic stability, moral fiber and general welfare of the county, the release said. That means the county is committed to protecting scenic and natural resources, reducing traffic congestion, ensuring new development and development revamping occur “in harmony” with the county comprehensive plan, which is currently undergoing an update.

Guidelines cover a wide range of designs from streets and neighborhoods’ inter-connectivity to walkability, architecture and proper buffering.

“We are going to ensure that we build things the right way in Dorchester County,” Byars said.

The county can also now give more input on traffic studies connected to development projects. At this week’s meeting in St. George, council members passed third and final reading of an ordinance amendment to enhance requirements for traffic studies and other identified improvements. The ordinance provides Public Works Director Jason Carraher more authority on such projects.

Chinnis said both the resolution and amendment are “pieces and parts” of a bigger development picture that county leaders are working to properly construct and employ.

See the county website for the full list of principles and design standards. 

Source : https://www.journalscene.com/news/council-passes-resolution-to-hold-developers-accountable-on-design-guidelines/article_36406884-4252-11e8-896f-d39ad1d5ecc2.html

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