After several years of work to update the town’s Unified Development Ordinance, the document has been adopted by the Summerville Town Council.
However, council members remain divided on whether the UDO is truly ready for use.
Council members voted 4 to 3 to approve the second and final reading of a Unified Development Ordinance that replaces the existing zoning and land development regulations. The UDO is a document comprised of more than 300 pages related to the town’s zoning, stormwater management, development standards, among other ordinances.
According to Jessi Shuler, director of planning for the town, replacing the UDO will probably mean very little to most people and businesses in town. She said properties zoned PUD and most single-family residences (properties previously zoned R-1 or R-2) will see very little changes to their zoning requirements. Also, for existing businesses, unless they are making changes to their property, they will be affected very little as well, Shuler said.
“The most significant change is the addition of four mixed-use zoning districts that are more form-based, which means they focus more on the form of the development, than the use per se,” Shuler said.
Special called council meetings have taken place on a weekly basis since January as council members went through the UDO chapter by chapter making changes. Some of the chapters, including the zoning map, had yet to be addressed in that process. However, some on the council said it was time to take action on the UDO. Residents too, urged council members to adopt the UDO.
Resident Dawn Gantt addressed council members during time allotted for public comment. She said her small business has been restricted because of out-of-date zoning laws that would be changed if the UDO were adopted.
Councilman Aaron Brown said Gantt’s plea illustrated why council members should move forward on the UDO immediately.
“This is the problem with where we are right now with the UDO: we’ve had first reading and we’ve been in limbo for a number of months and we’ve got businesses that are trying to move forward,” Brown said. “The whole purpose of changing the UDO was to make Summerville a better place for businesses and residents...I think we need to move forward on this tonight.”
Mayor Wiley Johnson had proposed that the second reading of the UDO be postponed to November to allow council members to complete their workshop process and address the remaining chapters. Councilwoman Christine Czarnik agreed with him.
“I think it’s a good idea to put this off I think we’re only a couple weeks away from finishing but the part that we have not done yet is the most important part,” Czarnik said. “We’re close but we’re just not there yet.”
Councilman Jackson said further delay on the UDO would mean holding more public hearings before having second reading. He encouraged council members to put the UDO in place and accept that there would be changes and exceptions to manage after the UDO is adopted.
Johnson disagreed with Jackson and said if the UDO is passed, then making changes would be a drawn out process.
“I really still think that we need to make sure we get this as correct as possible and certainly if the zoning map could correspond a little bit more closely with the ordinance,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s motion to postpone the second reading to November failed. Brown made a motion to pass the second reading of the UDO including changes made at recent workshops, it was seconded by Jackson. The UDO passed with a vote of four to three. Johnson, Czarnik and McIntosh were opposed.
McIntosh said he was always in favor of the basic concepts behind the UDO, which include elevating the design standards in Summerville and “to make Summerville no longer the path of least resistance for substandard developments among municipalities in the area.”
“What we passed tonight is far superior to what the consultants provided us,” McIntosh said. “But I did agree with Councilwoman Czarnik that my concern, my reluctance to go forward at this point, is simply that we’re going to want another look at that map. We’re going to want to look at specific parcels and it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to change it moving forward.”
Shuler said she is excited to move forward with the implementation. To view the UDO, visit the town’s website .
“I know that we will face some hiccups as we bring the concept to reality, but I think that this is a big step in the right direction and will have a positive impact on our Town,” Shuler said.