Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Ten at the Top Roundtable

Jan 28, 2022 03:26PM ● By Donna Isbell Walker

Q. Where new development goes is often at the discretion of the land owners (with some input from local governments). What can be done to ensure that we do not have sprawling growth, but instead build new residential and commercial developments in appropriate locations that will not tax our physical infrastructure?

A. Cities and counties in South Carolina develop comprehensive plans (aka “comp plans”) to help guide future growth. These plans provide blueprints for where communities wish to grow and areas they wish to see left rural, forested, or as farmland. Such plans are our best tools for coordinating infrastructure investments and land development projects, and generally growing in a more fiscally responsible way. All too often, however, we let these plans sit on shelves instead of enacting them with policy. If we wish to reduce sprawl and better manage our fiscal and natural resources, elected leaders need to get serious about aligning policies with plans.

Andrea Cooper, executive director, Upstate Forever

A. Local governments have the opportunity to engage with their citizens frequently, but especially when they update and revise their comprehensive plans every five to 10 years. This community-wide planning activity allows for ideas to become local policy through development of a city or county’s future land use plan. This plan can geographically identify areas for high growth development clustered near existing or planned infrastructure that can better handle additional population density.

Phil Lindler, director,

Greenwood City/County Planning

A. The best available and time-tested land development tool is zoning. And by working in conjunction with local infrastructure providers, we can also help achieve more sustainable growth patterns. Growth for the entire Upstate is a foregone conclusion. And challenges like increased traffic, demands on public services, water, and air quality will require diligence and perseverance by our leaders if we hope to avoid the worst-case scenario.

Mark Farris, CEO,

Greenville Area Development Corporation

A. With coordination among key governmental entities, include water, sewer, Department of Transportation, and schools, the key elements that attract developers can be logically planned and provided.  Developers are often “electric” – they will take the path of least resistance. Just pave the way. 

Phil Hughes, president,

Hughes Investments

Q. Maintaining our natural resources (water, air, open space, etc.) is critical for the Upstate. What is your organization doing to ensure that natural resource preservation is part of the discussion as you are engaged in land use growth?

A. The mission of Upstate Forever is to protect our region’s most critical lands and waters. We believe that all citizens should have access to clean drinking water, healthy air to breathe, and safe greenspaces. We believe that economic development – while obviously critical – should not come at the expense of these important community priorities. Upstate South Carolina is blessed with some truly amazing natural assets. Upstate Forever advocates for smart land use policy and local investments to ensure these assets are not harmed – or worse yet, lost forever – as we grow. We also support increased funding for critical lands to protect important drinking water and other natural resources in addition to creating more places for residents to recreate as our area grows and our existing recreation areas become increasingly overburdened. 

- Andrea Cooper

A. GADC uses our natural beauty and outdoor culture to attract companies to our area. While we are obviously advocates for new and expanding industrial development, that does not need to conflict with goals for Greenville County’s open-space preservation. I was thrilled to see the new Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust commission established that will work to maintain the very thing that makes us attractive to both business and people. While achieving a land use balance is difficult in the face of unprecedented growth, groups like this will be critical if we hope to maintain our reputation as a great place to live and work.

- Mark Farris

Q. Moving people and goods from place to place is an important component of how we grow. Some parts of the region are already seeing significant traffic congestion. In addition, many of our lower-income residents live far away from job centers and often have trouble with access to transportation. What considerations do you currently give to mobility when looking at development and land use, and are there specific things we need to incorporate into future growth that can help reduce congestion while also increasing access to transportation?

A. Most areas of the Upstate have a low-density, suburban-style development pattern built almost entirely for cars. For most residents, that means travel by automobile is the only efficient option in nearly every case. No wonder we have traffic congestion! Most of us want mobility options and a well-functioning transit system. The issue is that we are not making the land use decisions to support those options. We need to start adopting land development policies now that focus a mix of uses in strategic nodes and invest heavily in infrastructure that supports walking, biking, and transit in those areas.

- Andrea Cooper

A. Long-term, the quicker we can adopt mobility solutions like autonomous vehicles for both passenger and freight transit, the more likely we are to both reduce traffic and create access for those without traditional modes of travel. Immediately, there seems to be a more concerted effort on behalf of our transit providers to figure out better ways to service the public. As Greenville emerges to be an office and corporate HQ location choice, many companies we work with are genuinely interested in affordable and available mass transit options for their workforce. While remote work trends may temper congestion growth, it’s a safe assumption that real solutions will be needed to accommodate the sheer volume of people moving to our area.

- Mark Farris

A. There are select portions of the urban areas of the Upstate without public transportation, as well as much of our rural areas. Funding continues to be a barrier for increasing transit options. There has been discussion within many communities about increasing funding. There also has been great progress within our rural communities to add transit where none has ever existed. Both Greenwood and Abbeville counties have started limited public transportation in the last year and other places across the region currently not served by public transit are working to try and add service. Congestion will continue until transportation service elevates to levels where alternative transportation options exist for a majority of Upstate residents.

Keith Scott, interim director,

Upstate Mobility Alliance

A. With large multinational manufacturers in Fountain Inn, it has been a priority to ensure that we have a wide range of housing options. Our efforts have been successful as our city was named the most affordable city in South Carolina in 2020 and 2021. As we continue to expand, we recognize the need for multifamily options and are making efforts to prioritize housing options for all incomes. Another critical component for growth will be public transportation and other mobility options. While Covid-19 has paused these initiatives, adding bus services is a key next step for the city. – Kate Kitzio, public relations manager, city of Fountain Inn 

Q. Who needs to be “at the table” when looking at how we are growing? Are those parties currently meeting and working together around growth?

A. We all do! Local land use policy affects us all. You’d be surprised at just how much land use decisions can support – or hinder – goals around affordable housing, mobility and transit, and greenspace preservation. Unfortunately, stakeholders representing these important community priorities are rarely at the table when critical land policy decisions are made.

- Andrea Cooper

A. The answer to this question in my eyes is a combination of multiple questions above it.  I do agree that the development is driven primarily by the property owners with guidance from planning and municipalities, traffic is already congested and risks contaminating our natural resources if development is pointed to local spokes/hubs and not allowed to continue in a sprawl format. Identifying the investment and growth zones and then conducting smaller focus group-level conversations with property owners and regulatory agencies should be a top priority. Convening and coordinating these focused meetings could create alignment between neighboring property owners, awareness of why their property is so critical to the entire Upstate and an understanding of how the economic impact passed on to every community member can be multiplied through increasing property values. Limiting development to infill with multiuse facilities, repurposing/renovation incentives and clear/concise development guidelines that clearly identify and incentivize the focus areas for spokes/hubs to be built out. 

D.J. Doherty, partner,

Mavin Construction LLC

A. Everyone has a role to play as we plan our region’s future. Business and industry, local government, state agencies, utilities, educational centers, community service agencies, real estate developers and the like are all necessary to work together on how our region grows in the future. There has been much success at the local city and county levels to foster collaboration and partnerships. Ten at the Top has been instrumental in facilitating this. However, even more can and should be done on a larger, regional scale to ensure that our Upstate continues to grow in the most effect and efficient means possible.

-Phil Lindler

A. As the Upstate continues to see growth, it is important that the right people are at the table. Ten at the Top is a hub for diverse leadership across our region. It is imperative that TATT continues to offer programming that provides individuals from the private and public sector opportunities to collaborate on how we grow together. 

Todd Horne, president

Clayton Construction Company Inc.

A. Transportation agencies, business organizations (including Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development organizations) and local governments all need to be involved in identifying funding sources to grow transportation option across the Upstate.

- Keith Scott

A. This is a large and complicated endeavor, and to manage growth best requires many goals with diverse objectives. Generally, “growth” means population growth, but actually it is many subsets with diverse needs and objectives. The needs may be different for each party – for example industry looks for a skilled and qualified labor pool with adequate transportation and access to its markets in a cost-effective environment. This may differ from residential growth that is looking for quality education in a safe neighborhood at an affordable price. Which may differ from a retailer who desires high population density, easy access, and high household income. Overall, fundamentals of adequate water, sewer, roads, and schools are needed to complement sufficient land availability to serve each type of use in balance.  With these fundamentals, perhaps the single key ingredient will continue to materialize: quality jobs.

- Phil Hughes

A. As we grow as a city, everyone needs to be at the table, residents, community leaders, business owners, and planning professionals. Fountain Inn recently engaged stakeholders with a focus on managing the change of our downtown area; we surveyed residents, met with business owners, engaged civic leaders, and heard the vision of our elected officials. Soon we will continue bringing people to the table in the broader scope as we update our comprehensive plan. The significant growth in our area makes the Future Land Use Map a critical tool in managing growth in the right areas. 

Kate Kitzio, public relations manager, City of Fountain Inn

Q. Regardless of whether it is our larger cities or our smaller towns, generally there is more infrastructure in-place in our cities and towns than in the countryside. Are you seeing increased interest in people living closer to our cities and towns? What are or can our communities do to help accommodate growth within our cities and towns?

A. I think many municipalities are seizing the opportunity to create a greater sense of place that drives a desire to live downtown. Simpsonville, Travelers Rest, Mauldin, Fountain Inn, and Greer are all working hard to establish an attractive urban core that makes them each unique and focuses both residential and commercial development. Greenville set an example that many communities in the Upstate are following. Woodruff, Piedmont, Walhalla, and others are using the growth to their advantage in establishing their own “cool” downtowns.

- Mark Farris

A. People across the Upstate continue to migrate toward an urban environment. As this trend continues, it is critical that our city leadership across the region collaborates on best practices. Focusing on things such as job growth, education, housing, and quality of life will continue to be the drives that draw people to our cities across the Upstate region. 

- Todd Horne

A. Pre-Covid, yes, post-Covid, no I feel this desire was unseated some by the pandemic and will take a little time for the communities’ comfort to reach a point where they want significantly more people much closer to them.

- D.J. Doherty

Q. One challenge with economic and population growth is that it is not even – meaning growth is not equally distributed across the region. What is an area within the region where you are seeing or expect high growth? If that area is proactively preparing for growth, please share a little about what they are doing. If they are not, what do they need to get prepared?

A. The Upstate region has experienced much growth over the last three decades. The 2020 census has shown that the majority of the population change during the last 10 years occurred in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Pickens counties, with double-digit percentage increases. Additional growth continues to occur in counties along the I-85 and I-26 corridors with noticed population declines in the more rural counties of the Upstate. For the next 10 years, we would expect development to cluster around our major transportation routes and our larger cities with additional development pressures placed on our smaller towns and communities with available infrastructure capacity.

- Phil Lindler

A. For Greenville County, we can see the focus of residential growth at the poles. The northern section of Greenville is seeing places like Travelers Rest become a preferred location for new high-end subdivisions while also trying desperately to protect this area’s more rural character. The southern end of the county is seen as a more affordable housing option when compared to the urban areas, so large-scale homebuilders flock to this section that is relatively well-served with water and sewer infrastructure. Leaders will need to depend more than ever on the recently completed comprehensive land use plan for Greenville County to achieve balanced growth. While we at GADC are obviously advocates for new industrial growth, the preservation of open space is also critical to maintaining the quality of life that helps us attract both companies and skilled workers. –

- Mark Farris

A. In 2021, Spartanburg County recognized $1.9 billion in new investment and 4,045 new jobs. Because of this success, we are seeing growth in the housing and multifamily sector. Our economic development team in Spartanburg is very proactive with local and out-of-market developers to make sure we have the proper housing stock to sustain future growth. 

- Todd Horne

A. Northern Anderson County (Powdersville area) has been seeing high growth both from industrial and residential development. That area is not being served by any transit for either residential or industry. Anderson County has discussed the 81 corridor to Powdersville for future transit service, but it has not yet come to fruition. With the continued growth, establishing some transit service in that area will be crucial.

 - Keith Scott

A. The past is typically a good indicator of future growth, and our region has already seen concentrations of growth in two general areas – one is in our urban cores, and the other is where there is easy access to the interstate highway. Urban growth may be a reflection of the desirability of living and working in walkable communities, with a diversity of uses and many choices of restaurants, shops, and entertainment/culture. The more suburban areas often are desirable due to good schools, more affordable housing, and easy access to jobs and recreation. Our region has many resurging urban areas that have prepared well – Greer, Spartanburg, Greenville, Anderson, etc. Suburban growth continues to follow the convenience of the highway system as we observe residential expansion along the 85 and 26 corridors, along the Southern Connector and growing development along 385 

Phil Hughes

A. The city of Fountain Inn and the rest of the Upstate are experiencing tremendous growth. The northern part of our city is welcoming new residents driven by the recently added state-of-the-art schools. In the east, manufacturing jobs are drawing people to the area. In the south, improved infrastructure has allowed for industrial growth. Our strategies for preparing for growth are simple: improved zoning and infrastructure. Improved zoning has allowed the city to control development. Nearly all new zoning requests are design review districts (e.g., Planned Development) or require a development agreement. In addition, our partnership with SCDOT for road improvements has been critical to ensuring the built environment is ready for growth.

– Kate Kitzio

A. One area of concern for me personally is the Laurens Road corridor. With the changes coming when the SRT connection is opened and the volume of foot traffic extends down Laurens Road, there will be significant growth and revitalization when the activity levels increase, and I have concern about the ability to deal with that many pedestrians beside changing traffic patterns. 

– D.J. Doherty