Summerville Town Council takes first step toward placing a building moratorium on subdivisions

Dorchester County News

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – The construction of new subdivisions in Summerville may soon temporarily come to a halt.

At a special called Summerville Town Council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, council approved the first reading of an ordinance for a 90-day moratorium on the subdivision of land into five or more parcels. It would only apply to single-family homes (R-2 zoning).

The moratorium ordinance states the town’s current zoning laws are insufficient to address the needs of the growing community and says that town needs more time to determine how its zoning ordinances and comprehensive plan will best be revised after the completion of ongoing studies.

The ordinance also says that the subdivisions are placing an undue burden on the town’s ability and resources to provide adequate fire and police protection, safety on its streets and thoroughfares and sufficient stormwater infrastructure to prevent flooding.

Mayor Wiley Johnson introduced the ordinance and said there are new types of development being introduced in Summerville that the town needs to figure out how to address with updated laws.

“There are so many new things that are happening to us right now that are being brought forward to the table, development that people want to do, that are not necessarily what is best for Summerville,” said Mayor Johnson. “That is what this whole thing was about.”

The first reading was approved by a vote of 5 to 2, with Councilmen Walter Bailey and Bob Jackson voting against the moratorium.

“Just the fact that we’re here talking about a moratorium is council’s failure to plan,” said Councilman Jackson.

Councilman Bailey said it may negatively impact business in Summerville.

“The word moratorium means we are closed for business,” said Councilman Bailey.

Executive Director of the Charleston Home Builders Association Patrick Arnold attended the council meeting and said he is opposed to the moratorium.

“Planning officials generally all agree that they have opposite effect in terms of making traffic and infrastructure worse because they encourage sprawl,” said Arnold. “They’re making people drive even further to live and making the roads worse and they don’t even collect the taxes to fix it.”

Government Affairs Director for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, Josh Dix says moratoriums are a violation of property owner’s rights.

“These moratoriums are tantamount to a taking,” said Dix. “You’re not allowing a private property owner to utilize that property to its most and best use. A lot of these folks have their retirement invested in it, similar to a 401k, so you’re saying they can’t capitalize on their retirement plan. They can’t sell, they can’t build and it really is a violation of homeowner and property rights.”

The moratorium would become effective if town council approves a 2nd reading and would last for 90 days from the date of the reading.

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