UNION — Information on subjects such as population, economic development, housing, transportation, land, and culture will all be part of a new Comprehensive Plan that will guide the City of Union’s efforts to promote, accommodate, and sustain the future growth and development of the community.
In an address to Union City Council this past Tuesday, Robby Moody, Senior Planner for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, presented a “Comprehensive Plan Overview” which began by looking at the history of planning in South Carolina. The overview explains that early planning and zoning in the state goes back to the 1920s and that planning is designed to minimize land use conflicts and guide economic growth. It describes the 1976 Home Rule Act and the 1994 Planning Act as the key enabling legislation for planning by counties and municipalities.
The overview also examines the role of the Planning Commission whose primary responsibility is to serve as an advisory body on planning matters to city council. The commission’s roles are both legislative — comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance, land development regulations/subdivisions — and administrative — development approvals, capital improvement plans and other tasks, public facilities review (location/character/extent).
It also pointed out that comprehensive plans are:
• The legal foundation for zoning and land development regulations as mandated in the Planning Act.
• A reflection of local values.
• Approved by ordinance by the city council.
It also pointed out that comprehensive plans are not zoning codes as the document has no regulatory impact, but adds that actual zoning should avoid any large-scale inconsistencies with the land use plan aspect of the document.
The overview states that a Comprehensive Plan is composed of elements that are mandated by the law. Those elements are required as they reflect balance and interrelationships between a community’s people, its economy, and its environment. Those elements and the information contained in them are:
• Population — Historic trends and projections, household numbers and sizes, educational levels, and income characteristics.
• Economic Development — Labor force and labor force characteristics, employment by place of work/residence, and analysis of economic base.
• Housing — Location, types, age and condition of housing; owner and renter occupancy; and affordability of housing.
• Natural Resources — Slope characteristics, prime agricultural and forest land, plant and animal habitats, coastal resources, parks and recreation areas, scenic views/sites, wetlands, and soil types.
• Cultural Resources — Historic buildings and structures; commercial districts; residential districts; unique, natural, and scenic resources; archaeological and other cultural resources.
• Community Facilities — Water supply, treatment, and distribution; waste water treatment; solid waste collection and disposal; fire protection, EMS, and government facilities; education facilities; libraries and other cultural facilities.
• Land Use — Existing/future land use by categories, including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, forestry, mining, public recreation, parks, open space, vacant or undeveloped land.
• Transportation — Transportation facilities, major road improvements, new road construction, transit projects, pedestrian and bicycle projects, and other elements of transportation network.
• Priority Investment — Analyzes the likely federal, state, and local funding available for public infrastructure and facilities during the next 10 years, recommends the projects for expenditure of those funds for infrastructure such as roads, water, sewer, and schools.
The overview also presents a proposed schedule for the development of the plan. The schedule includes the following four phases:
• Research Phase during August and September.
• Community Input Phase during October and November.
• Plan Development Phase from December through March.
• Plan Adoption Phase from April through June.
The overview states that the Community Input Phase would involve organizing and conducting public information sessions including community meetings at local schools, topic specific workshops, and at the meetings of other groups.
Council took no action on the plan, but Mayor Harold Thompson said that plans are to get input from within the community. Thompson said that each member of council will provide the name of a person they would like to see serve on a steering committee for the public input portion of the project. He said that council will also hold some open meetings for the public comment on the proposed new plan.
“We just want to see what the people want in the new plan for future growth,” Thompson said.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.