Buffer ordinance on its way

  • Thursday, September 19, 2013

The space and landscaping separating Chick-fil-A from St. James Avenue is an example of an existing buffer. STEFAN ROGENMOSER/GAZETTE

After much ado about buffers in committee and council meetings in the past year and a half, Goose Creek City Council has approved a buffer ordinance.
The second of two readings was approved at the Sept. 10 council meeting at city hall.
The number of trees required in each buffer will depend on the size of the property and how it is zoned.
The previous buffer ordinance draft was vague, Planning Director Sarah Hanson said.
The buffer ordinance is modeled after Mt. Pleasant, Hanson said. She added that this ordinance is similar to other municipalities.
Several drafts had gone between the Planning Commission and the Economic Development Advisory Committee. The PC argued that buffers would make the city look more attractive. EDAC argued that it would deter new businesses from coming and hurt the city’s economic development.
The previously proposed ordinance was retroactive, meaning existing businesses would have to comply within five years. That stipulation was removed because businesses would have lost parking spaces and property.
“Council didn’t feel that was the equitable way to do it,” Hanson said. “We had a lot of landscape wording . . . it was too cumbersome for businesses to apply.”
New businesses, however, will be required to comply. The same goes for businesses making improvements or renovations totaling more than 50 percent of its value.
The new ordinance is based on zoning, not land use.
“Office and retail use are the same now,” Hanson said. “A doctor’s office could become a restaurant in 10 years.
“Property five or more acres in size require more buffers. It serves a purpose but also gives some flexibility.
“A hospital, school or Walmart would need a larger and more heavily-planted buffer than a restaurant, car service or convenience store. It’ll give us the trees and landscaping we want but it’s not burdensome on businesses. It makes property more attractive and is practical for businesses. The priority is not to landscape.”
The buffers do not apply to single-family residential housing. They do however apply to multi-family residential housing, restricted commercial, general commercial, instructional and light industrial zoning.
The buffer size and type required depends on how the property is zoned and what it is next to.
For instance, a light industrial zoned area adjacent to single-family residences would require a buffer 100 feet wide consisting of at least 10 canopy trees, 15 understory trees, 60 shrubs per hundred feet of buffer yard and a structural element such as a fence or privacy wall. If the buffer for such a situation were 150 feet it requires fewer trees and shrubs.
If multi-family residential zoning is next to single-family residential, the former will require a buffer of 15 feet consisting of at least four canopy trees, eight understory trees and 30 shrubs per 100 feet of buffer yard.
Another option for this zoning would be a buffer 30 feet wide consisting of at least four canopy trees, six understory trees and 15 shrubs per 100 feet of buffer yard.
A canopy tree has a single trunk and is at least 8 feet tall with a 2.5-inch caliper. An understory tree has a 2-inch caliper and is six feet high. Shrubs are required to be 24 inches.

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