County council gives UDO final approval

Lancaster County Council approved the new Unified Development Ordinance Monday night by a vote of 5-1. Councilman Jack Estridge cast the vote of opposition.
“Lancaster County has changed, and this is an effort to try to manage that growth,” said Councilman Larry McCullough. “I fully support the UDO and applaud all who worked long and hard on this.”
The labor-intensive ordinance passed largely due to its built-in annual review process allowing changes and corrections in response to any unintended consequences. Its first such review will be next June.
Discussion about the height limitation on free-standing signs preceded the vote. Councilman Larry Honeycutt and Dean Faile, president of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, said the restrictions might prohibit new businesses from locating here and might hinder the promotion of current businesses.
“This sign proposal is not new,” said county Planning Director Penelope Karagounis. “The current UDO has contradicting language. One section says it prohibits free-standing signs and another says it’s OK, but they can’t exceed 25 feet.”
Karagounis said 90 percent of the zoning department’s permits the past two years were for signs 10 feet or shorter. Signs taller than 10 feet require approval from the state in the form of an engineer seal, which costs more money, she said.
Council agreed the sign issue will be the first item tackled by the advisory council next June. Until that time, the 10-foot limitation stands. Businesses wanting a taller sign can appeal to the zoning board for a variance.
The new UDO’s passage automatically lifts the moratorium for rezoning north of S.C. 5, which has been in effect since July 13, 2015.
In other business, Avondale, the 189-acre mixed-use development located between Calvin Hall and Harrisburg roads, passed its final reading with a 4-2 vote. Council Chair Bob Bundy and Councilman Estridge cast the two no votes.
Resistance to the project has continued to fade over the past few months with the realization that the land will be developed. A single developer offering improvements to the county rather than a collection of neighborhoods with different developers seems the better option to those who had opposed the project.
“I’ve seen this developer work with those in favor and even those against this project,” said Indian Land resident Nick Kerzman.
He pointed out that traffic woes will continue with or without Avondale, but the developer’s proposed realignment of Calvin Hall and Harrisburg Roads should offer some relief.
He also said the financial contributions, $365,000 to schools and $730,000 to public safety, and the donation of land to the county offset the negative impact of the inevitable growth.
County council voted down the Avondale ordinance this past Jan. 11. Council member Charlene McGriff made a request after an executive session at the May 23 council meeting for a motion to rescind the five-month-old rezoning denial. The motion passed.
McGriff said at the time that this allowed the county some say in how the project would progress, and council member Brian Carnes described the developer’s offer to the county as “a much more robust and comprehensive package than prior developments.”

By Mandy Catoe, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News