Saluda leaders alter controversial Ozone Drive plans

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 27, 2018

Commissioners, planning board amend portions of proposed zoning district

SALUDA — After receiving pushback from members of the community, officials with the city of Saluda are amending their recently proposed multiuse zoning district along the Ozone Drive corridor.

The city’s board of commissioners and planning board hosted a joint session meeting earlier this week, where they made minor alterations to the proposed Ozone Multiple Use District, which would impose sidewalk and vegetative buffer requirements to new or expanded developments along Ozone Drive, among other provisions. The discussion was prompted by backlash from members of the public, who spoke out against some of the provisions of the zoning district during a special board of commissioners meeting last month, as well as through a petition and letters, which were presented to both the commissioners and planning board members during their session this week.

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In light of the concerns, the two boards discussed making several alterations to the provisions of the proposed district, including removing the requirement that property owners build a 4-foot high berm between any new or expanded developments along Ozone Drive. Several members of the board of commissioners expressed their support to remove the berm requirement, saying it is the cause of much of the acrimony about the proposal, and that such structures are not needed along Ozone.

“I’ve never been in a favor of a berm, or large vegetative buffer, because I can’t stand Hilton Head because you can’t find anything,” said Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden. “I was just in Litchfield Beach, in the Pawleys Island area, and it’s the same thing. If you’re trying to find a grocery store, and if you don’t know where it is or if you’re not with someone who does, you can’t see it.”

Another change the officials agreed upon was adding a provision that exempts property owners from complying with requirements to build a sidewalk if they are simply building an accessory structure for their main building. For example, someone who owns a single-family home along Ozone Drive who would like to build a shed or a small garage on the property would not be required to build a sidewalk as well, said Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon.

“Whether you are a residence, or business, or anything else, if the property simply changes hands, and the land use stays the same and the principal structures all the stay the same, there is no requirement to come into compliance [with the zoning ordinance],” Cannon said.

These and other amendments the officials made to the proposed Ozone Multiple Use District ordinance are minor enough that they do not require the city to host another public hearing, Cannon said. The city has 60 days from the first public hearing on the ordinance, held Sept. 12, to approve or disapprove the zoning amendments.