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City staff revising vegetation rules


By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Greenville planners are in the process of changing the city’s vegetation standards so that expanding businesses have fewer restrictions on the number and location of trees and bushes they have to plant.  

Currently, businesses that expand the size of their facilities by 20 percent or more must plant an amount of new vegetation on the property determined by the square footage of the building and other factors. Business expanding 20 percent or less are not bound by vegetation requirements.

City staff is raising the threshold that requires additional vegetation from 20 percent or higher to 50 percent. The change means businesses that are expanding less than 50 percent of their total size would be exempt from most requirements. 

The recommendations came during a presentation by Mike Dail, a lead planner for the city, to the council on April 9 during their pre-council meeting workshop. The discussion was requested by Mayor P.J. Connelly, who brought the matter up during a March council meeting after hearing difficulties that an expanding businesses encountered with the current vegetation ordinances.

Other recommendations Dail proposed included relaxing standards in recognized industrial zones and eliminating rules that require businesses to remove existing parking lots and other impervious areas to compensate for impervious areas created by the expansion. The revisions also will more options for placement of vegetation when space for expansion is limited.

Staff also is recommending that businesses expanding between 20-50 percent install trees between the street and structure and place vegetation around the border of their parking lots. According to Dail, the street trees and parking lot screens are the main features that create a pleasing aesthetic. 

“I say that it’s a win-win because it’s a lot less for a developer to have to do, but it’s still a significant part of the vegetation retrofit that impacts our community,” he said. 

Dail said the screening would only be required if existing space was available. He noted that several businesses have asphalt all the way up to their property line, in which case they would be exempt from the screening requirement.  

Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman, who was giving an unrelated presentation to the council at the workshop, noted that vegetation screening was a help to policing efforts. He said creating borders on properties was a key component of the principle of crime prevention through environmental design.

“When your city looks like it’s cared for, your property looks like it’s taken care of and there’s some territoriality around a property, it just changes the mindset,” he said. “It’s amazing what some shrubs and a little bit of care-taking can look like, people are less likely to come on that property in the evening and get in trouble.”

Following Dail’s presentation the council’s general consensus was in support of the suggestions. City Manager Ann Wall said staff would revise the ordinances and for review by the Planning and Zoning Commission and later to the council for approval. It is not clear whether the reveisions will be discussed in the May meetings. 

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth