On Development and Smart Growth

Development dominated the agenda of our last Committee of the Whole meeting.  As did talk of smart growth and traffic concerns.  These are concerns Council hears from YOU.  And we are reflecting those concerns in our discussions around and decisions about proposed development.

Late last year, Council unanimously voted down a project at the corner of Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin.  As I explained here, this was a request for a major change to the plan originally submitted after the city annexed this property in 2006. It is known as Waterleaf at Neely Ferry and is located right behind Food Lion.

We explained several reasons why we were opposed to this proposed development. You can read about that here.

As a result, the developer “went back to the drawing board.”  In between the December meeting and our Committee of the Whole meeting in February, I had the opportunity to speak directly to the developer, Graycliffe Capital. And at the most recent meeting, they presented a new plan to Council, one that I am really excited about.  Here’s why:

  1. One of Council’s concerns was about a blind spot created by a hill on Neely Ferry as you coming past S. Baldwin towards W. Georgia Rd. If you drive this route, you know what I’m talking about: it’s difficult to see at all what’s coming and can be very dangerous.  Graycliffe heard us, and they brought a solution.  They spoke to SCDOT about what it would take to resolve this issue.  SCDOT will not itself do anything to correct the issue.  However, Graycliffe has offered to fix it at their expense.  They will basically shave down the road to eliminate the hill that creates the blind spot. This, to me, is one of the best things about this project.  We will get road improvements we would otherwise never get.  We get to address an existing safety concern that would only have been made worse by more traffic.  This is the kind of response from developers we like to and should see.
  2. Another concern was the entry/exit onto S. Baldwin. Council simply does not believe that S. Baldwin can handle additional traffic.  Problem solved: entry and exit onto S. Baldwin will be gated and protected by a Knox Box.  This will prevent anyone other than emergency vehicles from entering.  Emergency vehicles must be able to enter because that’s required.
  3. I recently wrote about the importance of sidewalks and connectivity. Another major plus for me is that this neighborhood will be connected internally and externally by sidewalk. It will be completely walkable.  The developer will connect to the existing sidewalk on Neely Ferry in front of the Food Lion.  This connection will allow those who live at the Water Leaf to walk easily and safely to buy groceries at Food Lion or pick up prescriptions at CVS.  And because we already have crosswalks and walk signals at the intersection of Neely Ferry and West Georgia Rd., they’ll also be able to walk their children to Plain Elementary.
  4. The plan we saw in December was for an all residential project. And as I mentioned previously, this area had been identified for mixed use. The developer took note of our objection to this change.  The new development is mixed use.  It features not just apartments but also office buildings.  Density has been reduced—there will be fewer apartments.  This is in keeping with the city’s vision for this area.
  5. Green space! The old plan basically levelled the property. The new plan preserves a significant amount of the natural area, saving existing trees and incorporating a new walking trail.

This new project is a wonderful example of smart growth. This is a development that helps Simpsonville.  I spoke in favor of this development at the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 27th.  I voted in favor of it.  Council unanimously voted yes.  The project will now appear on the March Business Meeting agenda for a final vote.

I hope that we see more authentic collaboration between developers and city officials in the future.  And I hope we see more results like this.

As presented to both the Planning Commission and Council at the February Committee of the Whole: screenshot_20180306-141608878466298.png