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Richland County restarting mapping process for rezoning to give better understanding

Richland County Council has decided to take more time to amend the land ordinance code, to give council and residents a greater understanding of rezoning overall.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — This week marked another protest for Richland County residents attending Tuesday's scheduled County Council meeting.

"The rezoning impacts our rural community," explained resident Helen Bradley. "We're out there because we like what we have, and we don't like the new code. We know that new development is going to come but we want smart growth."

Residents like Bradley have been showing up to protest county-wide rezoning since receiving notification of rezoning letters in the mail in February.

RELATED: Richland County residents upset over potential rezoning

People have expressed concerns about what rezoning really means and say their questions had not been answered by the county. Bradley said all she wants is for the County Council to listen and explain what rezoning actually means.

"We want them to go ahead and delay their decision on rezoning and let us have a part in what they are doing... We don't feel like they are listening to us, but they will when election time comes around," Bradley said.

In Tuesday's meeting, Richland County councilmembers said they want to listen and collaborate with residents moving forward.

"It's important that we start having plain talk with people. Not everyone speaks land development code," said Councilman Derrek Pugh.

After a short discussion, the council decided to restart the mapping process completely.

County Council members voted to amend the 500-paged land development code where needed, and marry the code to the map, so the code and map work hand in hand.

"What we are doing in amending this ordinance is reviewing the zoning map and text," explained Councilman Bill Malinowski. 

RELATED: Richland County neighbors sign petition to stop zoning code changes

The remapping process will take months to work through, but the council says they want to get it right. Council members voted to start working on remapping without a deadline to allow time for understanding and collaborative efforts.

“This restart presents an opportunity to further engage with the community on this issue,” said Leonardo Brown, Richland County administrator, in a memo released Tuesday evening.

“We have already held more than 50 public meetings across the County and spoken individually with hundreds of citizens, but the recent attention on this process and misinformation surrounding it leads us to understand we need more time to reach as many people as possible, gather their feedback and explain why we are modernizing the Land Development Code,” Brown said. “We deeply value the input of residents, and restarting the mapping process underscores our commitment to transparency and accountability.”

Frances Eargle says this vote was a victory for her and her neighbors in Ballentine.

"This is really exciting. The residents really felt like we were heard tonight, and this is good government," Eargle said.

The Richland County Planning Commission has scheduled a work session on Monday, May 9, to lay out the next steps in the process for remapping.

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