County council votes for rewritten UDO

After nearly two years of a labor-intensive rewrite, the Unified Development Ordinance passed its first reading by county council this week following 90 minutes of discussion and explanations.
Councilman Steve Harper expressed concern on several issues, ranging from backyard chicken coops to tree permits, in the 339-page document, including 34 pages of definitions, 74 pages of appendices and five pages of edits since Sept. 2.
“I’m not against the new UDO or the zoning map,” Harper said. “There are some major problems in here that will cost people a lot of money and heartache…. I just don’t want to be here until 2 o’clock in the morning next year dealing with a lot of this stuff.”
Harper acknowledged refinements could be made as the UDO moves through the process, but urged council to address some of them before voting.
Harper made about a half-dozen motions and withdrew most after county Planning Director Penelope Karagounis assured him the planning department would take a closer look at his concerns.
“It’s really not a matter of strike this or keep this,” Councilman Larry McCullough said. “It may just require an additional sentence of explanation to refine the rules.”
Letting out a heavy sigh, Harper began working through his list of questions. He noted that Lancaster County Sewer and Water District had been given an exemption in the Carolina Heelsplitter Overlay District.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives met with LCWSD officials, and they were granted an exemption, Karagounis said.
Harper then addressed the issue of requiring tree permits near McWhirter Air Field.
“This is creating layers of government we don’t need,” Harper said.
Karagounis explained the permits were created under the advisement of Ken Holt, aviation engineer, a consultant often used by Lancaster airport commission. She said he would be at the next meeting to answer any questions.
“Here’s one that needs to come out,” Harper said as he directed the council to Section 5.10.3.a, dealing with backyard pens/coops with small animals: poultry, rabbits or other similar small creatures subject to the discretion of the administrator.
“I just don’t think we need to be telling people what kind of small animals they can raise,” Harper said.
McCullough explained that the number of animals people own sometimes becomes an issue.
“The county has received complaints about 200 chickens on a half acre,” said Zoning Director Kenneth Cauthen.
Councilman Brian Carnes urged the council to determine how many chickens per acre could be allowed.
Harper continued: “The one big deal that needs to be removed is the required traffic analysis for development on land as small as 2 acres.”
Karagounis said the requirement was based on the exploding growth in the Panhandle.
Harper said the traffic impact study carries a price tag upwards of $10,000 and would be too costly in most areas, but agreed it was a needed requirement for land north of S.C. 5 along U.S. 521.
Halfway through the UDO analysis, councilman Jack Estridge added his viewpoint.
“I probably won’t live long enough to understand this new UDO,” he said without a laugh, despite chuckles by other councilmen and members of the audience.
Councilman Larry Honeycutt, with a second from McCullough, made the motion to pass the UDO as amended on its first reading. It passed 5-1 with Estridge voting no. Council member Charlene McGriff was absent.
In other business, three Avondale ordinances (rezoning, PDD and development agreement) passed their second readings with a 4-2 vote. Estridge and Bundy voted no on all three.
County council voted down the rezoning of the 189-acre development Jan. 11 after listening to more than 20 concerned Indian Land citizens who felt the large mixed-use development between Calvin Hill and Harrisburg Roads would stress already overcrowded roads and schools.
McGriff made a request after an executive session at the May 23 council meeting for a motion to rescind the five-month-old Avondale rezoning denial.
County council members have been adding their support one-by-one, and Indian Land residents have offered less opposition each time the ordinance has reappeared. The growing consensus is that growth is inevitable, and that by accepting Avondale’s development package the county at least will get something in return for the increased population.
Just before adjournment, Willis announced the resignation of Debbie Hardin, clerk to council, who will be leaving after 15 years of service to the county.
“No one is more heartbroken than I am over that,” Willis said.
Willis said Hardin was much more than clerk to council, but was a trusted voice in matters that came before council.
“She was the glue that held it all together,” he said.

By Mandy Catoe, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News