Preserving Polk: How existing development regulations safeguard rural character

Published 12:23 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

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POLK COUNTY—A proposed development in Rutherford County has sparked the interest of nearby residents who wondered if a similar development could be proposed in Polk County.

The simple answer? No.

Ordinances and agreed-upon plans for Polk County protect the county from developments such as the proposed neighborhood in Rutherford County. That development is planned to have 60 single-family homes on a 30-acre plot of land and includes private wells and septic systems.

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Since this development is planned for Rutherford County, Polk County has no control over what happens. Polk County only has control over parcels in the parts of the county not under the jurisdiction of the three towns (Columbus, Tryon, and Saluda) inside the county.

If the development were being proposed in Polk County, the county’s regulations wouldn’t allow it to happen, as there is a five-acre minimum density for parcels within the development with private wells and septic systems. Per Polk County’s regulations, a development on 30 acres of land would have a maximum of six parcels for a major subdivision or eight parcels for a minor subdivision. 

If the development had public water and sewer, the density could be one lot per two acres, which would increase the maximum to 15 parcels per Polk County regulations. However, in certain zoning districts, this can be even more restrictive.

The county updated and approved its Subdivision Ordinance in 2011. No new subdivisions have been approved since then. 

Two subdivisions currently have Development Agreements, which are agreements between the county and developer that regulations won’t change over the agreement’s term. Those developments are Brights Creek and White Oak Development (which is part of Tryon Equestrian). 

The Polk County 20/20 Plan has “approved” a vision for Polk County. It states: “Polk County’s rural atmosphere and serene natural beauty will be vigorously protected. Visionary and pragmatic county and municipal governments will work together in a cooperative manner as they continue to enhance the quality of life for all Polk County citizens.”

This Comprehensive Plan is to be used as a guide for future growth and development and contains a lot of data, including maps and charts. When an ordinance is created or revised, part of the approval process is a statement that what is being approved is consistent or not with the 20/20 comprehensive plan.