Community First: Slamming the Brakes on Development

Some members of the Lexington County Council are trying to ensure that the quality of life here will be optimized for residents.  Yet, there are others that don’t consider that a priority. 

Almost all of the front page of yesterday’s State newspaper was about a proposal to limit housing development in Lexington County.  The article, “Lexington County may limit mass home development,” read, in part;

In an effort to alleviate that in some areas, Lexington County Council may limit the number of homes that can be built per acre in some of the county’s fastest-growing communities. The proposed law would create a district, mainly around the town of Lexington, and then limit the number of single-family homes that can be built inside the area from 12 per acre to four per acre. The restriction would only apply to unincorporated areas in the district.  [emphasis added]

CC3, Darrell Hudson, CCDistrict3
Darrell Hudson

The restriction is championed by Council Memberi Darrell Hudson who points out the deleterious effects of packing more people in smaller spaces.  In the article, Hudson emphasizes the impact more traffic has on local businesses.  Residents are also quoted complaining about personal crowding and living “on top of each other.”

The current development restriction is 12 units per acre.  Hudson wants to maximize that number to four, a quarter of an acre per home, in certain parts of the county.  However, in the last five years, according to the County per the article, “the highest density residential development built in the past five years was 6.72 units per acre.”

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What Hudson and others want to do is make sure those more dense neighborhoods don’t materialize – and with good reason.

Let’s look at some numbers.  There are 43,560 square feet in one acre.  Dividing that by 12 is 3,630 square feet.  A high school basketball court is 4,200 sf, and an elementary court is 3,108.  Basketball, court-sized plots (houses plus “yard” and driveway) are lilliputian at best.

More?  A football field with endzones is 1.32 acres.  The END ZONE alone is 4,800 square feet.  By the 12 house-per-acre allowance, two-and-a-half units would fit just in the end zones!  On an entire football field, developers can stuff almost 16 houses!

Further, most households these days have at least two vehicles per unit.  That could easily translate to 240 more vehicles per 10 acre development added to our roads.  The proposal would slash that to 80.

Added to all that is the ancillary motor traffic into and out of these neighborhoods: mail, utility vehicles, delivery trucks, landscaping and other service, etc.

So, limiting the maximum to a more manageable number makes sense, Yes?

Not in Lexington County.

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Bobby Keisler

According to the article, County Council Member Bobby Keisler believes that packing people into crowded developments isn’t a problem.  “Keisler said the main issue county council should be focusing on is improving roads, not limiting construction of homes,” writes State reporter Isabella Cueto who then quotes Keisler, “Until they do that, we’re going to have the same problem.

Interestingly, in the next paragraph of the article, we read Stewart Mungo, chairman of Mungo Homes, parroting Keisler’s thoughts (or is it vice versa?) saying the main issue is traffic.   As reported, Mungo believes “taxing vehicles might be a more sustainable approach because it could limit traffic and create a much-needed funding source for upgrading infrastructure.”

It’s understandable for developers to want to build as many houses as possible on as little land as possible.  It becomes problematic when elected officials speak policy in unison with developers, especially to the detriment of the population.

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Erin Long Bergeson

Council Member Erin Long Bergeson, a proponent of the proposed law, told Lake and Main “I do believe (it) is a preventative measure. It would limit super small houses on super small lots which will come in time to the area…the roads cannot handle the volume now and will only get worse with more houses.

She is spot on.  The impact on water, sewer, power, emergency services, schools and the environment would be extreme, even at 6.72 units per acre.  Property devaluation to surrounding neighborhoods and the damage to community welfare is a certainty.

Mr. Keisler also seems to be saying that the Lexington County Council can’t work on more than one problem at a time.  “Focus on improving roads, not limiting construction of homes?”  Gee, maybe schools should focus on reading, not math.  It sounds like Mr. Kessler is running for the state legislature where his can-kicking is standard.

Besides, the County can’t do squat about the roads without SCDOT, state and federal funding, taxes and a lot of luck.  Even then, we’re competing with other counties with the same problems.  Lexington County CAN control – at least partly – the volume of humanity it contributes to traffic and the panoply of problems it creates.

There is only good reason to limit residential construction and, thus, limit the number of people and their cars in Lexington County.   There is also reason in questioning the motives of those in our government who prefer the developers arguments over the welfare if the citizenry.

Darrell Hudson and Erin Long Bergeson are visionaries who recognize the dangers of growth and damages caused by compacted housing developments.  Lexington County, and particularly the Town of Lexington, have failed in previous decades to arrest growth and make thoughtful, long-term plans for businesses and residents.  As a result of that lack of foresight (and loyalty only to developers and their dollars) we are suffering from traffic congestion, over-crowded schools and strains on our infrastructure.

Here is a chance to, as Mr. Hudson says, “slam the brakes” on development and put the community, current and future, first.

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