City looks to overhaul zoning code

After investing millions into downtown Greenwood, officials want to make sure that future developments, such as shops or offices, meet the city’s long-term plans for the area.

The downtown area will be a key focus of a plan to update the city’s zoning rules, which will include adding specifically tailored rules for downtown Greenwood and updating language that hasn’t been touched since the 1980s.

As part of its proposed 2018 budget, the Greenwood City Council is considering paying a consultant $150,000 over two years to do an overhaul of the city’s zoning and subdivision codes. A comprehensive review of these rules hasn’t been done for decades, and changes and updates to them have just been made piecemeal since then, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

The result is a system of rules that is complex and disorganized, planning director Bill Peeples said. The last major overhauls of the zoning code were in 1968 and 1988. Even the rules on how many parking spaces businesses must have are based on antiquated data, he said.

The city rules for zoning, planning and development are lengthy, and the process of recreating the city’s entire zoning code is time-consuming and wouldn’t be able to be done by city staff, Taggart said. That process will begin in 2018, and could take as long as two years to complete, she said.

Creating a downtown overlay district will be a priority, and that part of the project could be completed sooner than the final overhaul of the zoning code, Taggart said.

Several areas of Greenwood, such as those along State Road 135, Interstate 65 and Worthsville Road, are included in overlay districts and have specifically tailored rules for what types of businesses can operate in the area and how buildings constructed in that area must look.

Those rules range from requirements on the amount of landscaping and what materials are used in construction to whether certain industries, such as distribution facilities, are allowed. City officials say the rules are necessary to ensure similar types of businesses are grouped together and to have continuity to the look and feel of the city.

But downtown Greenwood isn’t in one of these areas and is open to developers working on projects that might not fit with the city’s long-term vision for an area officials view as key to the Greenwood’s future economic development.

Council members have long been asking for a downtown overlay district, especially with how much money the city has invested in certain projects, including more than $1 million to restore façades of downtown buildings. Future plans call for investing more than $20 million in downtown Greenwood, including a reconstructed Madison Avenue, a redeveloped Old City Park and a new connector road between Surina Way and Market Plaza. Consultants have already been hired to create plans for the projects. The city also purchased the former Greenwood Middle School, with plans to demolish it and develop offices, stores, restaurants, condos and apartments.

Plans should be in place to ensure that downtown Greenwood develops uniformly and with quality projects, council president Mike Campbell said.

How that will be done, such as whether the city would require a certain amount of brick to be used in new projects, for example, still needs to be determined, Campbell said.

The goal is to encourage the character of the Old Town area without creating too many burdensome requirements, Peeples said.

“Once you start dictating things, everything starts looking the same,” he said.

Residents and business owners will have the opportunity to give feedback and make suggestions on any changes the zoning rules, Peeples said.