Berkeley Supervisor Bill Peagler draws growth boundary

Berkeley County has ranked among the fastest-growing in South Carolina with development's like Cane Bay shown in this aerial view from 2015. Wade Spees/File

County Supervisor Bill Peagler has upped the ante to channel new residential growth to areas where infrastructure and utilities already exist.

Peagler announced Monday that he has asked county department heads to work with county and regional officials to build upon the county’s existing Principal Growth Area “so that it serves instead as a Principal Growth Boundary.”

Council members reached Monday declined comment because they said they were unfamiliar with the directive, but they questioned whether it had to do with the development agreement for the Camp Hall site, where Volvo is building its new plant. County Council’s land use committee meeting Monday is set to include a closed session to discuss Urban Growth Boundary and sewer line options.

“They have not given us enough information at this point to actually make a comment on what they are planning,” said Councilman Ken Gunn. “There are several alternatives to this plan from what I understand.”

In announcing his new policy, Peagler said, “The increased coordination with county departments, agencies, and area municipalities will ensure everyone has a seat at the table on the important discussion of growth outside of the Principal Growth Boundary.”

The move was lauded by Natalie Olson, staff attorney and land use program director with the Coastal Conservation League.

She called Peagler’s new policy directive “a significant step forward in planning for the future by strengthening the county and its citizens’ ability to protect the rural areas while allowing growth and development to thrive.”

Peagler said the county would like to continue to see new businesses and industries bring well-paying jobs to the county, but his focus is “not on adding significant new high-density residential development in rural Berkeley County that may threaten its distinctive character.

Peagler said his objectives are to limit development density outside the boundary and to direct appropriate growth inside it.

He also said he would like to see a growth boundary framework approved by County Council as an update to its comprehensive plan.

“Berkeley County continues to be open for business, and Berkeley County continues to mean business,” he said in a statement. “We want to make sure that our residents can continue to enjoy the beauty of rural Berkeley County.”

Berkeley would not be the first Lowcountry county to draw a firm line on growth. In 1999, Charleston County Council approved an urban growth boundary that also has been recognized by the city of Charleston and the town of Mount Pleasant —though there is no inter-jurisdictional agreement regarding its location or how the line could change.

Charleston’s boundary is designed to keep dense development away from rural areas, such as farms, forests, tidal marshes and freshwater wetlands.

Olson said growth boundaries are important land use planning tools because they direct growth to the right places – where roads, utilities and services exist.

“Allowing growth outside of urban areas dramatically increases the cost of providing these services for the municipality or county and can be detrimental to our natural environment,” she added.

Peagler’s April 19 policy directive was sent to both the county’s Planning Department and to Berkeley County Water and Sanitation.

Reach Robert Behre at 843- 937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre. Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713.