Revisions to two Columbia County ordinances could reduce parking at shopping centers and create more landscaping areas for parking lots.
The county's planning staff is looking at changing the landscaping and off-street parking ordinances to cut down development costs and improve aesthetic appeal.
"A lot of asphalt is not what people want," said county Development Services Director Richard Harmon. "One of the ways you can cut back is to reduce the number of parking spaces."
Except during holidays, parking lots remain well below capacity level much of the year, Harmon said.
According to a draft of the parking revision, developers and business owners would be required to follow a set standard for the minimum and maximum number of parking spaces.
County Planning Director Nayna Mistry said she'd like to see parking lots in the front of businesses broken up into sections.
"We're trying to encourage them to have parking more around the building, so you can see less areas of parking," she said.
Landscaping is not only more cost-effective than laying asphalt but also more environmentally friendly, Harmon said.
To reduce the amount of asphalt in parking lots, alternative surfaces, such as permeable concrete and turf blocks that allow grass to grow through a grid of blocks, could be used.
"If they want more spaces than what the maximum allows, they have to go with some sort of low-impact design that looks more like grass then gray asphalt," Mistry said.
An additional change to the landscaping ordinance would end a requirement that light poles be placed inside parking lot islands.
The latest revisions are part of a larger effort to keep county ordinances relevant and up-to-date.
"What applied 20 years ago may not apply at all today," Harmon said.
Harmon and Mistry said they started meeting with area businesspeople nearly two years ago to hear feedback and concerns.
The landscaping and parking changes could go before the planning commission at Thursday's meeting.
The ordinance amendments, if approved, would allow for greater landscaping flexibility and more creative parking designs, Mistry said.
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