Neely Ferry Development Update

More good coverage from Post and Courier Greenville: I think Conor Hughes must not sleep!

From the article:

➡️ “Councilwoman Jenn Hulehan, who represents the ward where the new development would be built, said she agreed a 55-plus community would be a good fit for the property. “While we’re looking at 42 units, we’re only looking at potentially generating the [peak time] traffic of something like 14 regular, single-family home units,” she said.”

➡️ “The request considered Dec. 14 was for innovative development zoning, which would give the city much more control and oversight throughout the process. Zenith also tweaked its plans in light of concerns members of council voiced in September, adding features such as rear entry garages on every unit. The approval also came with the condition that sidewalks inside the development be extended about 500 feet north along Neely Ferry to connect with the crosswalk in front of Plain Elementary.”

📝 Some notes from me:

🚶‍♀️That sidewalk to the cross walk is important. It will help connect that neighborhood not just to the cross walk/school but to Westwood, to Food Lion (and everything in the shopping center), CVS, and even all the way to downtown (I have a senior neighbor who actually walks downtown every day).

🏡 As a Council, we have a responsibility to ensure housing that meets population trends in our city. Boomers are aging. And as they are, they are seeking homes that support their active lifestyles and require less maintenance. In this community, they have access to amenities to support that lifestyle and maintenance is provided via an HOA. We must create a Simpsonville that people can call “simply home” at every phase of life.

🚗 During peak hours, yes, traffic to and from the school is difficult. You have a lot of people trying to get to one place and a lot of people trying to leave one place all at the same time. However, during non-peak times, Neely Ferry can handle the additional 14 homes’ worth of traffic. National traffic studies on senior housing back that up: they generate on average about 1/4 of the traffic of a traditional single-family home. My own experience, which I shared with my colleagues last night, also backs that up. I’ve sat out there with the crossing guard and observed school time traffic. I also walk that way with Oakley every day. Just yesterday, around 3:30, we walked that road from Plain to Capewood, and in about ten minutes, 16 cars passed us. Eight going towards Capewood and eight towards West Georgia. That’s comparable to other non-peak times we’ve walked it and counted.

❓At the end of the day, the Anders family is selling that property; something will go there. The question for Council is what can go there that will be an asset to the city and not create an additional burden on our city resources. I think this plan is the answer. The developer worked hard to address the concerns we originally shared. A public meeting was held at First Baptist Simpsonville for people to share their thoughts on the project. Owners of neighboring properties were notified and asked to share their thoughts. The Innovative Development zoning allows the city to have much more control over what goes there. This project is the result, and it’s a good one.

🤝 It’s also another good example of what happens when we all (Council, Planning Commissioners, property owners, developers, citizens) work together as a team with the city’s best interests at heart. Municipal government is a team sport. We’re better together.

📝 For more notes on green space and amenities like pocket parts, the rubberized walking trail, home elevations and access points, see the list in my previous post:

Affordable Housing

On last Tuesday night, Council heard a presentation by John Castile of the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority on the issue of affordable housing.  Many people associate “affordable housing” or “income-based” housing with “Section 8” or “Public Housing.”  But that’s a misconception.  Creating affordable housing opportunities can be done in a variety of ways. As I’ve said before, I received my first mortgage via the South Carolina State Housing Authority. It was a special program for public service employees making under a certain yearly income that allowed me a reduced interest rate and a reduced down payment. It made homeownership something I could afford—more affordable, in fact, than renting.  And that homeownership was a launching pad that helped me continue to build economic mobility.  It also gave me the opportunity to pay that forward.  It’s not just about me or any other individual(s), though. That kind of personal economic mobility has a direct impact on our community, including increases in local purchasing power, job creation, new tax revenues, and decreased numbers of people using public assistance, amongst others.  Make no mistake: we have an affordable housing problem in Greenville County. The recent Housing Study about which we were informed shows that clearly. And every day, the problem is growing, in part because of changing demographics, the high cost of labor, and a focus on luxury homes (and higher profit margins). Simply building more affordable housing isn’t the answer—it’s a part—but not the whole.  We learned about a number of tools to create opportunities like the one I had or like the one we’ve created for 13 families via our partnership with Habitat for Humanity. That’s why the County has established a $1 million annual fund to support affordable housing.  And it’s why GCRA is facilitating a new 5-year consolidated plan for Greenville County.  And it’s also why I look forward to working with the County, GCRA, our City Administrator, and my fellow councilmembers to build our “Affordable Housing Toolbox” with a variety of options and to ensure our 2020 Action Plan and our new Comprehensive Plan support efforts to create affordable housing opportunities that are the right fit for Simpsonville.  If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again: long-term, strategic planning will be the only way can solve problems like this in sustainable ways.


What’s with all The BoZA Meetings?

At the last Committee of the Whole meeting (9-24-19), we discussed current and upcoming items before the Board of Zoning Appeals. As we discussed, BoZA has been hearing a number of the same requests: special exceptions for construction services. As Mr. Derby explained, 3 have already been before BoZA, and a fourth is on the docket for this evening. In short, these construction companies are requesting to open offices in areas zoned Business General (or, as in tonight’s, R-OI, which is Residential–Neighborhood Office and Institution).  They’ve no onsite storage or vehicles.  In other words, as Mr. Knudsen explained when I asked the question, they’re like any other office that would be allowed in B-G.  Because their business type is “construction,” they have to request special permission via BoZA for what is an allowed exception per our Zoning Ordinance. Why is it allowed? Because it’s to establish an office like any other office.  We’re talking desks and phones and a couple of employees.  All construction-related equipment and so forth would be stored elsewhere.  Realistically, you’d never know these offices were for construction companies except for their names. The full procedure for determining whether nor not a request meets the criteria for Special Exception is located in Article 7 of the Zoning Ordinance. It’s quite detailed.

As a reminder: you can listen to that meeting and all of our Council meetings online.  In this one, you’ll hear Mr. Knudsen explain more, including why we’re receiving so many of these requests now and what we’re doing about it.


Also, if you’re interested, R-OI is established to promote and accommodate residential uses, offices, and institutions in areas that are not exclusively residential or nonresidential by nature. Although nonresidential uses may be permitted, the intent of
this district is to preserve the residential character of the area through careful attention to the scale and form of development. Furthermore, it is the intent of
this district to discourage uses that generate excessive traffic or any other activity that would be largely incompatible with the residential nature of the district. The BoZA will ask questions tonight to determine whether or not this particular request fits. Some items they will consider include:

A. The volume and type of sales;
B. The size and type of items sold and the
nature of the inventory on the premises;
C. Any processing done on the premises,
including assembly, manufacturing,
warehousing, shipping, and distribution;
D. The nature and location of storage and
outdoor display of merchandise;
E. The type, size, and nature of structures;
F. The number of employees and customers
and hours of operation;
G. Traffic generation and parking turnover;
H. The amount and nature of any nuisances
generated on the premises, including but not
limited to noise, smoke, odor, glare,
vibration, radiation, and fumes; and
I. Other impacts related to health, safety, and
general welfare.

Then, they will approve or not and issue a Finding of Facts regarding their decision. Meeting is at 5:30.  The Finding of Fact Looks kind of like this one from the one we discussed at the 9-24 Meeting:

fof 1fof2

Turn Lanes on Curtis

How many times have you found yourself stuck in a line of cars behind someone turning left onto Main from Curtis St. and thought, “Why can’t we have a left turn lane and signal at this intersection?!?” If you’re like many people, it’s happened quite a lot.  Everyone who travels through downtown knows what a traffic jam is created by people turning left.  And people in the surrounding neighborhoods know (and have complained) about how often people cut through to avoid that intersection and the jam.

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, Council voted in favor of a proposal that would provide a solution: left turn lanes and signals at the Curtis/Main intersection. The proposal does eliminate some on street parking (4 spaces on one side of Curtis and 8 on the other) to provide the space required to create the turn lanes.

The city is working together with SCDOT and the County Transportation Committee to secure funding for the project.  We originally talked about this proposal at the June Committee of the Whole Meeting and since that time the City Administrator has met with representatives from DOT and the County and has solicited input and feedback from local small business owners downtown.

The loss of on street parking is a concern to some business owners and to Council.  However, I feel like the loss of parking is outweighed by the benefit of better traffic flow through town.  The rest of Council seems to be in agreement.

Also, it is notable that we have public parking at City Hall that is underutilized for the businesses on the east side of Curtis.  And the City Administrator is currently in discussions with the Verdons about purchasing property for additional downtown public parking (remember that Verdin Veterinary has moved and been renamed).

This proposal for turn lanes and signals at the Curtis St. intersection will now come before Council for a final vote at the next Business Meeting.  If you have questions or concerns, reach out to our City Administrator or anyone on Council.


These are a few exciting things (Meeting Recap)

Despite having a packed agenda, we had an efficient and productive Business Meeting tonight. With the time change, that means we left while it was still daylight!

Here are some other things I’m excited about from tonight’s meeting:

  1. Waterleaf at Neely Ferry.  Council unanimously approved this Concept Plan.  I previously told you why this plan is exciting and good for Simpsonville: road improvements, green space, sidewalks and connectivity, authentic collaboration between Graycliffe Capital and the City of Simpsonville, and smart growth!
  2. South Street Innovative Development Concept Plan.  At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on February 27th, Council voted to move this to the Business Meeting.  Despite voting yes, I had some lingering concerns about sidewalks (or lack thereof) and connectivity.  I took those concerns to our Planning and Economic Development Director, Jason Knudsen: there are no sidewalks on Corporate Drive or N. Industrial Dr. Mr. Knudsen knows how I feel about sidewalks and connectivity.  And he suggested we ask Gray Engineering, the firm who submitted the Statement of Intent, if they’d work with us to improve the walkability of the area.  End result? We’re getting 2 additions to the plan: a) the addition of a sidewalk extending up Corporate Dr. connecting to South Street; and b) the addition of a ten-foot-wide, multi-use trail from Corporate Dr. to Richardson St. This is a great public improvement!  Not only do we get increased walkability/connectivity, but also, as Mr. Knudsen pointed out in tonight’s meeting, this is good long-term planning.  After all, what do we want in Simpsonville? A trail!  And here’s one small trail that could potentially be a part of the bigger trail we’re working with the National Parks Service and concerned citizens on. And that’s exciting!
  3. Speaking of long-term planning, I am also excited that Council unanimously approved the appointment of Chief Wesley Williams as City Administrator Pro tem. So here’s the thing: Simpsonville has experienced a great deal of instability over the last several years.  Dianna Gracely (who we’re so happy to have now!) makes the 4th City Administrator who’s been at the helm in my short tenure on Council.  Especially with the unexpected and tragic passing of Mr. Eddie Case, we realized that we need to be better prepared (in advance) for how the city moves forward in the absence of a City Administrator. We don’t need to be caught unawares and scrambling to decide what happens if something keeps the City Administrator from being able to do her job (although we certainly hope nothing will ever happen to Ms. Gracely). The idea of a pro-tem Administrator was first broached by Mr. Cummings.  We talked it out, and we decided this is the right choice in planning for the future. The appointment essentially mirrors that of the Mayor Pro Tem, and “pro tem” really just means “temporary.” So in the event that Ms. Gracely cannot–for whatever reason–serve in her role as City Administrator, Chief Williams will serve in her place temporarily.  They will work together closely to make sure that Chief Williams is apprised of any business, processes, or procedures that he may need to understand in Ms. Gracely’s absence to keep the city running smoothly. Given his experience, dedication, and vast knowledge of everything Simpsonville, Chief Williams is the obvious choice for this appointment.  Better planning for the future will always excite me. That’s what this is. And it’s what I promised to work on back in 2015/2016. 


Updates From the December Meeting

The December Business Meeting had two items referred to Council from the Planning Commission.  One was a 2nd reading for an annexation of property along Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin Roads. The annexation request asks for the property to be zoned  Residential–High Density, and the applicant wants to build 64 townhomes on the property.  I expressed concern regarding traffic and other impacts related to this rezoning, especially given a plan to develop another Residential–High Density apartment complex directly across the street.  Mr. Gooch expressed similar concerns.  Mr. Graham moved to table the discussion to allow more time for the applicant and staff to work on this project.  That motion passed 4-2, with Mr. Gooch and I voting no (Ms. Braswell was absent).  I voted no because I don’t think there’s anything that would change my mind regarding this development if brought back to Council in January.  Nothing changed between the November reading and the December reading, after all.

The second item referred from the Planning Commission was to make a major change to the plan for the other development on Neely Ferry (now called Waterleaf). This is right behind Food Lion.  This land was annexed into the city back in 2006. At that time, Council approved a plan for a mixed use development.  That means it would include retail and office space in addition to some multi-family housing.  The project was never developed.  Now the developer would like this Council to agree to a Major Change that would make this development all Residential–High Density and include up to 410 units.  Again, that’s a lot of activity in that area, in my opinion.  In addition, our Comprehensive Plan identifies this area as “Village Activity Center.”  That means the City plans for it to be mixed use.  Yet, the developer, City staff, and the Planning Commission asked us to approve this change.  If you know me, you know I have been pushing for better long-term planning in Simpsonville.  In this case, we had a plan, and we were being asked to ignore it.  I simply could not support this.  Neither could the rest of Council.  This project was voted down.

Meeting Updates

ICYMI: here are some updates from last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting:

Public Works

  • All temporary easements have been sign and work will soon begin on the sidewalks in Woodside Mill area.
  • Engineering work has begun on the headways in Hunters’ Hill road and Powderhorn Dr.
  • Street crews have cleaned 60 storm drains to allow for quicker removal of standing water in roadways.
  • Creek crossing at Grandview repairs are underway. We only have one remaining in Poinsettia.

Police Department

  • Police Department has renewed their traffic safety grant in the amount of $62,000.00. The grant funds the position and benefits for this program.
  • A replacement traffic counter has been ordered to allow us to finish the traffic study in Hunters Woods.

Fire Department

  • Progress is still being made on Station Five.
  • Fire Department personnel will be participating in Fire Safe SC held by the State Fire Marshal Office to address reducing fire deaths within the State.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec have cleaned up the plaza area on North Main Street in front of Shortfields and will continue on South Main in the following weeks.

Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber has requested they be allowed to submit a monthly report as other departments within the City in lieu of appearing monthly. Staff have suggested that they appear quarterly, and they were receptive to this.


  • Planner I, Ben Hyde’s first day was the day of this meeting: September 26th. We look forward to having him on board and are excited about what he can bring to Simpsonville.
  • We have made some office changes at City Hall to allow for a conference room.
  • Interim City Administrator, Chief Wesley Williams, will be attending the Greenville Administrator meeting on September 20th.

Other new hires for August were:

  • Brandon Davis – Police
  • Diane Kennedy – Police
  • Michael Milam – Fire
  • James Mosley – Police
  • William Preston – Fire
  • Travis Tarrant – Recreation

We welcome these new employees to Team Simpsonville!  It takes all of us working together–One Simpsonville–to make Simpsonville the best it can be!

Hometown Economic Development

What if this empty, rarely used alley downtown were a dynamic outdoor space providing public restrooms and a safe gathering/event space?

Downtown Alley
Alley across from the Ice Cream Station on SE Main St.

That’s our vision! That’s why City staff have applied for a $25,000 Hometown Economic Development grant from the Municipal Association of SC.  Here’s the best part about this grant opportunity: like many grants, it requires a match from the City.  In this case 15%. But it doesn’t have to be in cash–it can be in in-kind contributions.

This project was one our recently passed City Administrator Eddie Case was excited about. And I am glad we are moving forward to try to make this vision a reality.  More details about project costs and potential in-kind contributions will be presented to Council at the next Business Meeting, where we’ll be asked to pass a resolution supporting the grant application.

This is a great opportunity for us to make the most of underutilized public spaces in our historic downtown, which requires attention to pedestrian amenities as it continues to grow. This project will be great for downtown, our residents, and economic development.

Great Things Are Happening in Ward 3!

Great things are happening in Simpsonville!  And especially in Ward 3.

We have two new Habitat for Humanity builds on Boyd Avenue (thanks to Publix for getting the funds to get these rolling!).  Walls are up on one as of last week.  This will be the new home of the Waldrop family.


This is particularly exciting because they are the first family to be moving into a new home since Habitat kicked off the Veterans Build initiative.  Tony Waldrop served in the Marine Corps during Operation Enduring Freedom.  He and his wife Rachel are raising three great kids, and they’re both in school full time.

The second house on Boyd Avenue will become the home of Nicole Youngblood and her one-year-old son Kingston.  Construction on her home will begin in about a month.


Habitat builds generally take about 3 months, and the paperwork and details after that take another month.  So in mid-to-late summer, we’ll be welcoming two new families to Boyd Avenue. Read about our last build (for the Bouie family, also on Boyd Ave.)  and our future plans with Habitat for Humanity here.

Elsewhere in Ward 3 this summer, we should begin to actually see progress on the Woodside Mills sidewalk project.  This one has been in the works for a while (with a lot of behind-the-scenes action), and we’re finishing up the details with DHEC and the engineer.  If everything stays on track, we’ll see construction start as early as June.

Keep an eye open for all these good things going on in Ward 3 and across Simpsonville over the next several months.

PS: we got the previously discussed street signs up at the corner of Boyd and Morton!


Apartment Complex @ Harrison Bridge Rd.

Recently, I have received a number of emails regarding a proposed apartment complex on Harrison Bridge Rd. And while I have answered each one individually, given the interest in this topic, I also wanted to post an update here publicly.

As of yet, this issue has not been brought before Council, but I have done some research into it because I have received several emails about.

Last week, the Planning Commission held a public hearing about an annexation on Harrison Bridge and Hipps Roads for an apartment complex. The Planning Commission voted 5-2 recommending denial.

For my part, I am unlikely to vote to approve something the Planning Commission has already voted to deny. Add to what I have learned about the project thus far, and I would need a really compelling reason to vote in favor of this annexation as it has been presented.

As of this morning (8 November 2016), this apartment complex proposal has been postponed by the applicants, and they’re considering whether they should withdraw the application entirely.