Growth. It’s the number one topic of discussion in Fountain Inn, and it’s a healthy conversation for our community to have. The growth we are experiencing is a compliment to the type of community we have, and a reflection of our local economy’s strength, but it presents its own set of challenges.
The fact is – growth in this area is occurring because large tracts of land are selling – tracts that individuals and families have been holding on to for years, sometimes generations. The farmland or wooded areas that we all love seeing in this part of the county are all owned by someone – someone who may be holding it to sell for their retirement, or for inheritance, or as a long-term investment. When there’s a real estate market like there is today, and these large tracts go up for sale, the free market takes hold and growth happens.
But the issue with our growth isn’t a family or a business making personal decisions about their property – a right explicitly and exclusively theirs. The issue is our government’s role in creating the framework that allows for development – our zoning laws. If the laws aren’t helping create the type of development a community wants, then the laws are the issue, not necessarily the development or developer.
Local government’s role and authority in managing growth is rooted in our zoning laws. Zoning is the primary legal tool we have at our disposal that balances property rights with the needs and character of our community. It is the standard by which we hold all development in our jurisdiction. All of this, so that when a private property owner decides they want to build something, we can be sure it’s something the community desires.
Local government is where “big government” can go to thrive if you’re not careful. I’ve always held the position that to best address community needs, our government should be as small as it needs to be. You don’t want your government controlling the free market, and you also you don’t want them to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We all want uniform policy, clarity in decision making, and a transparent process. That’s why, when it comes to growth, we have zoning laws, a Planning Commission, a Board of Zoning Appeals, and a City Council. We have a framework, and then governing bodies to manage that framework, apply it, and when needed, adjust it.
It has become clear that to better manage our growth, it is time for us to do the latter – adjust our framework.
In 2017, we adopted our current Comprehensive Plan per the state law that requires us to do so every ten years. That process involved numerous public meetings, and the Plan was adopted by Council – and in 2022, the five-year mark, we are scheduled to review it, also in adherence to state law.
In March though, our City Council unanimously adopted a resolution which expedites the five year review of our Comprehensive Plan, and expands it beyond just a simple review. The resolution directed staff and the Planning Commission to begin their review of our Comprehensive Plan, Land Development Regulations, and our Future Land Use Map, ahead of schedule, and to recommend any necessary changes to City Council.
This process will include public input, and will be thorough. But it will not happen overnight. Our zoning laws have plenty of tweaking, fixing, and reconsideration that is needed. To do this right, it will take time, so I ask the public to stay patient – but most importantly, to stay involved along the way.
If you really want to manage growth, you have to start somewhere – and Fountain Inn just took our first step.
Mayor GP McLeer