MOUNT PLEASANT - This fast-growing town has tightened a regulation expected to apply to future developments by saying freshwater wetlands can't be counted when calculating required open space.
Town council approved the change earlier this month and, unlike some of the more controversial development restrictions council has approved, saw no public pushback from developers.
The way it works is developers are required to leave certain percentages of their land as open space, ranging from 50 percent to less than 10 percent depending on location and zoning.
Under previous rules, freshwater wetlands - land that couldn't be built upon anyway - counted when calculating open space. Saltwater wetlands did not.
“You still have to have the open space," said Christiane Farrell, the town's director of planning and development. “It needs to be high ground; that’s different."
She said the most recent large development approved by the town - 210-acre Liberty Hill Farm on Rifle Range Road - achieved more than the town-required 25 percent open space without using freshwater wetlands. That was before the new rules were approved.
The regulation will be particularly important for large planned developments with conservation zoning at the north end of town. Conservation zoning allows homes on small lots in exchange for more open space, and in such developments north of Darrell Creek Trail, near Wando High School, 50 percent open space is required.
“As we are kind of at the point in development where we are in the town, it’s going to come up a lot," Farrell said. "There are a lot of freshwater wetlands in those areas."
In areas that haven't been incorporated into the town, Charleston County allows higher-density planned developments to use freshwater wetlands, storm water retention ponds and buffers to account for up to 40 percent of open space requirements, county spokesman Shawn Smetana said.
However, developers typically annex their land into the town limits because they are required to request annexation in order to get connected to Mount Pleasant Waterworks sewer lines.