Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Disaster for Lexington Real Estate - Six Month Moratorium for Neighborhood Construction in Lexington County

By S. Wade McGuinn

Lexington County Council voted 8-1 for a 6-month home building halt. Council says large builders have created a public health and safety crisis. Public health and safety? Homes where we recently were mandated to stay as schools, government offices, restaurants, sport, and entertainment closed down in the Covid 19 epidemic? 

This will not help anything right now, and it will create a housing shortage in 2023. What about all the county employees who will lose their job or be laid off for six months while the Council sorts this out. What about landowners whose land is now rendered “farmland” and can’t be sold at a fair market price for development?

21-02 should not be a controversial issue. It is not a political issue. It is an issue that needs the attention of everyone involved. It should have never happened. I don't think we will find a resolution by public pole or arguing with those we disagree with. There are already literally hundreds of laws and ordinances on the books that give the county complete control of Zoning, Water, Sewer, Storm Water, Roads, and traffic. So why "close the county" for 180 days and create a 2023 housing shortage, lose county employees and impact local business?

I have lived in Lexington for over 45 years. I am a businessman and CEO of a medium-size homebuilding company for 35 years. I am also a housing author, national panel speaker on housing, habitat board member, and I represented our Home Builders Association at the height of the recession in Columbia and Washington. I survived several market downturns, including the great recession. 

As a home builder, I make a $1 million annual payroll for our team and support our vendor base and trade business to the tune of $50M in Lexington County. We (builders and developers) create jobs and a tax base. We do not build unsafe and insecure environments as this 21-02 refers to. I know most council members, yet no one called my colleagues or me and sought our opinion or expertise. Why?
Big business chooses Lexington County because the lifestyle for their employees is excellent. High-quality, affordable housing, great schools, and a safe place to live and raise a family. Where will the people who work at Amazon, Nephron, Micheline, Lexington Medical, Teachers, Policemen, Nurses, and firefighters go if they can't find a home in Lexington County they can afford? 

Where will new companies go when they learn affordable housing is gone from Lexington?

Other victims of the moratorium are everyone who serves the people who live and invest in Lexington county's growth. Like restaurant owners, grocery stores, public utilities, and small business people who need a new home to grow their businesses.

Housing affordability is simply an issue of lot size and density. Affordable housing cannot be on an oversized lot. As a business owner, the biggest problem and fear is the one that we can't see. That was true when the Council passed 21-02 with no input from the business community. As we wind down one of the scariest times in our history, the Covid 19 pandemic, we face a problem that no one saw coming. Politicians are interrupting the supply chain to the most important thing a family wants and needs. A home!

The pandemic taught us that when parks closed, schools close, restaurants close, we can find refuge in our homes. The safety of owning an affordable home in an affordable area has been the hallmark of what separates Lexington county and the United States from nearly every country on earth. Our ability to own a home and have personal property rights are fundamental rights in Lexington county too!
Whose rights are being violated? Who could have seen our fundamental right to a home in Lexington county would be stopped by a county council using fear as their tool. Health and safety are not their concerns. 

The concern is socio-economic. The council member's vote will hinder the ability of the very workforce that makes Lexington County great to live in or near them. The secret language is hidden in the real meaning. Like "½ acre lots, subdivision of 10 or more". Think of the cost of a new home on a half-acre lot with only nine neighbors. It is not affordable with land and development costs. The price of such a home would be more than $400,000.00.

Think about this, why a moratorium when:
• Interest rates are at an all-time low.
• The supply of used and new homes is at an ALL-TIME low. People want and need a home!
• There are plenty of government controls already in place by Lexington county. The county controls the following items: Zoning, Water, Sewer Storm Water, Roads, and traffic.

Why is there an emergency now in a process they already control? There are only about five developers and 6 builders (large and medium) in Lexington County. This should be resolved in private-public meetings, not in a public process. We all want to do the right thing. We need to agree on what the right thing is.

Under the moratorium, the county now will refuse applications for large residential subdivisions in unincorporated areas. The moratorium begins immediately and may be ratified into law in May. 

The 21-02 moratorium would prevent applications and the administrative processing of applications for: 
• Residential subdivisions of ten lots or more, or; 
• Residential subdivisions with lots averaging less than ½-acre, and;
• Residential attached land use activities as defined by the Lexington County Zoning Ordinance (apartment complexes).
• If a newly proposed subdivision consists of ten lots or more, the number of lots will be determined by many lots in the entire planned subdivision development, including all phases of the proposed development.
• New residential projects that have been formally submitted for review before enacting the moratorium will continue to be processed using the current development review process. 
• The moratorium is applicable in the county's unincorporated areas, which are defined by any sites that do not fall within the municipal boundaries of local towns and cities.
• County officials said the moratorium would allow for an opportunity to study, analyze and make recommendations to the Council concerning the consequences and impacts of large-scale residential growth and apartment complexes throughout the community.

So, what's behind the "why"? Let have an open debate. Both sides in a public hearing let people understand the issues and agree on a resolution. Why don’t the current ordinances and laws work? Why interrupt progress as the economy starts to recover if we can resolve the real problems in an open forum?

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