City Council along with the City of Newberry’s Planning Commission and Ward Braswell, planning and development director held a work session Monday to go through a summary of major points in an effort to update the City’s zoning ordinance. The work session was led by the Matheny Burns Group, whom the City has worked with on their 2010 Comprehensive Plan.

Mayor Foster Senn said that the City updates ordinances on a case by case basis to help address issues or concerns the city may be facing. These are typically conducted through the city’s attorney, Robert Lake.

From time to time, Senn said a more comprehensive review and update must take place in order to:

  • Simplify and streamline regulations for the public’s ease of use and understanding
  • Remove any inconsistencies and redundant requirements
  • Add tables and graphs to help improve usability
  • Update to reflect state law, accommodate new technology, address court rulings and make requirements legally defendable.
  • Transition to recent North America Industrial Classification System (NAICS) from Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)
  • Reduce subjectivity
  • Maintain, where appropriate, general consistency with county regulations

 “We are thankful to have had the Matheny Burns Group with us through this process,” Senn said.

Presenting for Matheny Burns were Cheryl Holmes Matheny, past president of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association who has more than 35 years of experience in local government planning, land use regulation, grant writing, community development, data analysis, computerized mapping and information technology.

Carol Rhea assisted Matheny in the presentation and has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of public and private sector planning positions.

Matheny said the presentation was a way to go through the updates made to the City’s zoning ordinance and allow the Planning Commission and City Council to ask questions along the way.

“The goals and priorities for the zoning ordinance update were to produce an ordinance that’s individually tailored to the City of Newberry,” Matheny said.

The primary objective, Matheny said to the process was to make the zoning ordinance more readable and easily administered by staff.

For example, under General Regulations, several general requirements were added to the proposed changes to include fences and walls as well as requirements for light and glare. Matheny said these requirements mirrored the ones within Newberry County making codes more uniform and easily understood countywide.

Under Zoning Districts, while not many items have changed, Matheny said the proposed section looked totally different and included a table that at a glance could be used to see what was allowable in each district of the city limits.

New or emerging uses were added in this section to include mobile food/retail trucks, brewpubs, micro-breweries and distilleries, solar farms and non-commercial solar energy generations. All were placed into a table of uses for ease of use and administration, Rhea said.

While the content in the zoning ordinance remained in essence unchanged, graphics were added, and language was simplified in areas appropriate to make the process easier to explain to the general public.

“I think it’s really well done,” Senn said. “I really like the graphs and tables as I think that will help Ward and his staff when people come in with questions.”

Senn questioned as to if the proposed zoning ordinance included language on the color standard for buildings in the city to which Braswell replied that the color palate would be approved by council as worded in the new zoning ordinance.

“Once the color palate is approved, the applicant would come before the Architectural Review Board to pull the color from the book that they would like to use, and the board would approve it in a similar process,” Braswell said.

With the state requiring initial and yearly training, Braswell said both the ARB, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Commission members as well as some city staff had completed training last November as well as training last week. Another training was planned to wrap up Tuesday, August 7. By the end of the year, Braswell said all members should have completed their required training.

Senn said that previous concerns had been raised that the City could do a better job of making sure the community was informed of meetings and agendas.

City Manager Matt DeWitt said that those interested in agendas for meetings revolving around the ARB or Planning Commission could visit the city’s website, and click on the drop-down menu under government where they’d find a downloads link. Under downloads, visitors can scroll to locate the Planning and Development header which listed all of the boards. After clicking on the desired board such as ARB, meeting dates and minutes to those meetings within the past year were easily accessible below.

DeWitt then said that for those interested in agendas for City Council meetings, that the city was now publishing a reminder of each of their council meetings on several of their social media pages. Agendas are also located inside of City Hall on the bulletin board and online by clicking on the government tab, followed by downloads. They are also published in the local paper and announced on WKDK Radio, DeWitt said.

Following Monday’s input session, Matheny said they would make changes based on feedback and ones completed those would be given to Braswell and the Planning Commission for a second review. Pending no additional changes, the vote will then be taken to council for approval of the new zoning ordinance. A public hearing and two readings are needed to pass the new ordinance.

“I am encouraged by the work put in by staff over the last year and a half on simplifying the City’s zoning ordinances in an effort to provide a better customer experience,” DeWitt said.