After brief thaw, Lexington County once again freezes new subdivision development

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After a brief thaw, Lexington County’s subdivision freeze is back in effect.

Lexington County Council voted 8-1 in a special meeting Thursday morning to reinstate a moratorium on most new subdivision construction, acting quickly after a judge shot down an initial attempt earlier this week.

In a Lexington courtroom on Tuesday, Judge Debra McCaslin invalidated the county’s first attempt to pause new subdivision applications, ruling the county council had not followed open-meeting rules when they met in a closed-door session to discuss the moratorium before a vote on April 13.

Lexington County is freezing all new development of properties with more than 10 housing lots and developments with “attached land use activities.”

Under the “pending ordinance” doctrine, the freeze goes into effect immediately after council’s first reading.

Robbie Derrick, the county’s community development director, said the revised moratorium now does not include subdivisions of less than half an acre. The intent of the moratorium is to pause large-scale development, Derrick said, and the original ordinance had stopped his department from handling applications for smaller properties in the county.

County planners will now develop a revised subdivision ordinance that could be put in place before the moratorium expires in 180 days, Derrick said.

Council members said the goal of the moratorium is to allow Lexington County to better prepare for the large-scale growth it’s now seeing. Councilwoman Beth Carrigg said the county has reviewed applications for 3,000 new homes in recent years, which could put 6,000 additional cars on the county’s roadways.

“We haven’t had a chance to shore up the infrastructure for the people who want to live here,” Carrigg said.

Councilman Scott Whetstone emphasized that, “We’re open for business, but we’ve got to protect quality of life. We want people to come, but we want them to enjoy being here and feel safe.”

Councilwoman Debbie Summers was the only vote against the proposal and said she hoped the county could complete its revisions to subdivision rules quickly.

“I’ve heard council members say we could get done in less than 180 days,” Summers said. “I hope so. ... I feel like we’re asking everyone else to slow down, because we have to catch up.”

The Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina had sued the county to block the subdivision freeze, which they claim will limit housing stock at a time when demand for homes is high, driving up prices elsewhere and squeezing middle-income buyers out of the market.