Columbia County officials are looking for ways to ensure developers of future high-density subdivisions maintain a high level of quality for prospective buyers and neighboring homeowners.
In November, the commission imposed a 90-day moratorium on R-2, R-3 and R-3A zonings, which have minimum lot sizes of 7,500 to 10,000 square feet.
During that period, commissioners asked county Development Services staff to look into, among other things, adding green space requirements in those developments and increasing buffers between neighborhoods of different zonings.
The county is also seeking input from area developers, said Commissioner Ron Thigpen.
Given the current housing market, builders are now focused on building less-expensive homes than in the past, which result in higher-density developments, Thigpen said.
“It was just a general concern that we pause for a moment in the midst of the changes that the economy has brought us, recognizing that housing is moving in a different direction,” he said. “It’s going to require more R-2 zonings with higher densities.”
Thigpen added that the zoning changes under consideration should maintain county standards for quality in higher density developments.
The county’s tree management ordinance has become a central focus on what changes could be implemented.
County Development Services Director Richard Harmon said a major concern he has is mass grading.
While it’s often necessary for builders to mass grade because of the county’s terrain, Harmon would like to see a reduced number of trees cut down in new subdivisions.
“Mass grading has got to stop in some way, shape or form,” he said.
Another benefit that could come out of the moratorium is adding more amenities to these high-density zoning districts, Harmon said.
Officials recently extended the moratorium’s initial Feb. 14 deadline to allow additional study.
Harmon said later this year he also plans to create two new zoning districts – new residential district offering different lot sizes and one that applies especially to retirees.