ROCK HILL – The City Council on Monday declined to vote on annexation and rezoning petitions by Development Solutions Group for a 105-acre subdivision, raising concerns about increased traffic and the failure of the homes to meet design standards.
The proposed Lakewood Forest Subdivision at Homestead Road and Deer Track Drive is outside the Rock Hill town limits, and the land would need to be annexed and rezoned under Rock Hill’s zoning ordinance.
Council members were concerned that town planners recommended approval for the rezoning, because the plans didn’t meet the town’s home design standards, but their biggest concern was that Celanese Road may not be able to handle the traffic that the proposed 203 single-family units would create.
Celanese Road runs west toward the Catawba River and connects to Interstate 77 and U.S. Highway 21. Council members agreed that until they can figure out how to alleviate existing traffic on Celanese Road, allowing large subdivisions to be built in that area may not be a good idea.
“To approve more people in this area, I can’t in good conscience at this point in time put people in that situation because they are not going to be happy with the traffic,” said Councilwoman Kathy Pender.
Although Mayor Doug Echols agreed that development along Celanese Road would create additional traffic problems, he also acknowledged that development restrictions posed problems for developers looking to build in that area.
“If in fact this council is going to say we’re not going to have any more development past a certain point because of what it puts on Celanese, then we need to be putting people on notice about that,” Echols said.
Kent Olson, CEO of Development Solutions Group, said at least half of the houses would be targeted at residents 55 and older, which would help limit the amount of traffic, but they wouldn’t be age-restricted by requirement.
The council asked Olson if Development Solutions Group had considered requiring age restrictions on at least half of the houses, which would lock in the number of houses requiring residents 55 and older.
Olson said that would limit the subdivision’s ability to “adapt to market changes” because it could shut out potential buyers.
Council members also said they would have been more in favor of the project had Development Solutions Group followed the town’s design requirements. The two most significant alterations that Development Solutions Group requested were that the minimum lot size be reduced to 55 feet wide from 60 feet wide, and that the town’s recessed garage requirements be modified.
The council questioned why the Planning and Development Department recommended the council approve a plan that didn’t meet the town’s requirements.
“Tell me what it is about this development that is worthy of moving away from those development standards for us to approve?” Councilman Kevin Sutton asked town planner Eric Hawkins during his presentation of the subdivision.
Hawkins said the department recommended approval because Development Solutions Group had made significant alterations in its original plans regarding design standards.
“We were really far apart. The original proposal was really different from our design standards, and we’ve worked with them to get them as close as they could get with their proposal,” he said.
Olson said the lot-size reduction was requested because older residents want smaller yards, and that smaller lot sizes allowed the subdivision to set aside 49 percent of the land for green space.
“We’ll go back and look at those regulations line by line, to see if there’s anything we can do to adapt to those, without pricing ourselves out of the market,” Olson said after the meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council approved the first readings for the rezoning and annexation of 12 acres at Rawlinson Road and West Main Street for a shopping center anchored by a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
The applicant, Atlanta-based Halpern Enterprises Inc., requested the property, which spans the city-county line, be rezoned to master-planned commercial from general commercial in Rock Hill and residential conservation in York County.
The shopping center, named Rawlinson Corner Shops, will face West Main Street and include the 42,000-square-foot Walmart, which is smaller than a traditional Walmart Super Center, a gas station and about 6,000 square feet of other retail shops.
Rock Hill requires two readings for rezoning requests and annexations, and the council will vote on the second reading for March 9.