On Sept. 9, our City Council will hold a public hearing on a fundamental change to our zoning ordinance.
This change will allow, to an unprecedented extent, high-density development in planned and multifamily residential zoning districts.
These districts comprise large parts of downtown Aiken, Silver Bluff and Pine Log Roads and Hitchcock Parkway. Woodside Plantation, for instance, is a planned residential district.
The current density limits for residential districts are based on the definition of a “dwelling unit.”
The proposal would exempt hotels, motels, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, dormitories and homeless shelters from dwelling unit status. Hence any of these facilities could be built in planned and multifamily residential districts (or adjacent to single family districts) with no limits on dwelling density.
Now, suppose one of our City Planning Department’s favorite projects doesn’t meet one of these exemptions. Not to worry, they’ve created another loophole to be easily exploited. They want to define a dwelling unit based on a fixed set of kitchen appliances.
If one of these appliances is missing, it’s not a dwelling unit and therefore has no density limits. This is precisely the same illogic that our Planning Department used last year to justify a massive retirement complex that was twice the legal density limit.
Fortunately, the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously disagreed with them, and the project was stopped. The Planning Department now wants to embed their flawed logic as law.
Many of us have fought this ill-conceived proposal at numerous Planning Commission meetings, but to no avail.
At the last meeting, 10 residents from diverse neighborhoods spoke against it. No one spoke for it. It still passed.
This is an obvious attempt to encourage high-density projects in residential areas, and it has long-term dire consequences. Make your voices heard.