As new houses and neighborhoods are developed in Greenwood, quality — not quantity — should be the focus, city officials said.
Nearly 75 percent of houses in Greenwood are entry-level homes, worth $100,000 to $150,000, and the city wants more higher priced homes to balance the housing options available, Greenwood Director of Planning Bill Peeples said.
The city council’s desire is for Greenwood to feature homes with price tags of $300,000 and up, with larger lot sizes and materials like brick or stone, and that would require developers to build fewer homes.
Their main focus has been on undeveloped property in two key areas: the east and southwest sides of Greenwood, where officials say more development is coming.
“We have an abundant amount of starter homes already, and I think it’s time we change the direction of our housing industry. We have a blank sheet of paper to work with to the southwest and east,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.
But developers said those higher priced homes are not what is in demand in Greenwood, and if the city requires them to build larger lots, they could back out of their developments.
“The whole issue really comes down to the affordabili-ty of the product. Not every-one can afford to buy a $300,000 to $350,000 home,” Beazer Homes spokesman Richard Henderson said.
“Smaller lots are what we feel this market still needs. Bigger lots, higher price, there is a limited demand for an extensive amount of those homes, and they don’t meet the demands of that area.”
But some city officials disagree with the city council’s plan to make changes to neighborhoods already planned and, for some, at least partially developed.
This week, the city plan commission made a recommendation for the council to allow a development near Stop 18 and Sheek Road to keep the same sized lots already approved. And the discussion could be rehashed at least two other times with other developments the city is targeting.
But even with their recommendation, under city government rules, the city council could still require the changes.
‘Now is the time’
The proposed changes so far have been focused on two undeveloped neighborhoods, and two undeveloped pieces of land, east of U.S. 31, near Freedom Park and off State Road 135. Several council members want to change the zoning already approved in those neighborhoods from the initially planned lot sizes of 6,500 square feet to between 9,000 and 12,000 square feet, Peeples said.
Those larger lot sizes allow for larger homes, with higher price tags between $300,000 and $450,000, Peeples said.
And those are the types of homes officials say are lacking in Greenwood.
Business executives don’t see the type of homes they’re looking for in Greenwood, Myers said. And the city is adding more jobs with higher pay, including at locally based Tilson and in the medical industry, and needs to provide more housing for those employees, Myers said.
“Now is the time for the city to say we prefer to wait and build something good for the future instead of just taking what we can get,” Myers said.
By requiring developers to expand lot sizes in certain areas of the city, officials hope to bring a higher standard of development, city council member Brent Corey said.
“For too long, the philosophy here has been growth at any cost,” Corey said. “That led to a lot of low-income, high-density housing. I think we need more proactive planning, and I’m leading the charge to raise standards of development.”
Higher-priced homes generate more tax money and help pay for the costs to provide city services, council member Bruce Armstrong said.
Unless a house is valued at $250,000 or more, the city loses money between the cost of providing services and the amount of taxes collected, Myers said.
‘Changing the rules’
This week, the debate on whether developers should be required to change their plans centered on Greenwood Station, with nearly 42 undeveloped acres at Sheek and Stop 18 roads and has not yet gotten construction approvals for that property. So the developer would have to follow any changes made by the city requiring different zoning and larger lots, Peeples said.
But the development already has about 200 homes, including some that have the smallest lot sizes as allowed by the city when the neighborhood was first developed.
And that is a concern for members of the city plan commission. Board members also want homes built to higher standards in the city, but not the way the council has proposed.
Two of the targeted locations where council members want to require large lot sizes already have homes built, and changing the lot sizes would put entry-level homes next to the desired, high-end homes, officials said.
In neighborhoods where homes have already been built, the city should live with what it has, plan commission president Trent Pohlar said.
On Monday, the plan commission voted 6-3 against the idea of larger lot sizes at Greenwood Station, and recommended the council keep current zoning standards.
The plan commission can provide recommendation, but the council can still rezone the property, regardless of what was recommended, Peeples said.
Plan commission member Duane O’Neal, who voted against the changes, still expects the council to rezone the properties, he said.
Plan commission members, some city council members and the mayor said they aren’t against higher development standards, but they don’t want a neighborhood with homes built to different standards. Plan commission member Phil Tinkle called the changes an over-reach of government.
“I want to raise standards, but this isn’t the way to do it,” O’Neal said.
Switching development plans on builders who have partially built subdivisions, or land owners with property that sits next to entry-level neighborhoods is not a good idea, Myers said.
“Changing zoning standards on land that is stuck between two, pre-existing housing additions, I don’t think that’s wise,” Myers said. “Higher-end homes in between starter homes will be more difficult to sell.”
The city shouldn’t require all areas not yet developed to change their plans, council member Ron Bates said. But he said he agrees the undeveloped area near Interstate 65 and Worthsville Road should have higher development standards.
“To have these properties completely rezoned after (prior plans) were approved, to me, is almost like changing the rules,” Bates said. “Hopefully we’re not trying to become like Carmel and compare ourselves or be better than another city.”
And officials also need to make sure to keep Green-wood welcoming to residents, officials said.
“It’s not all about ‘high-end’,” council member Linda Gibson said. “I think rezoning is more important for appearance and quality of what’s built on the lot. I am in favor of better quality built homes, but that doesn’t particularly mean ‘high-end.’”
Original plans still OK
One development the city had considered changing, Lone Pine Farms at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135, will stick to its original building plan of duplexes and smaller, mid-level homes the city doesn’t want anymore, but it also will include some of the larger, higher quality homes the city wants to see more of.
The city council voted against the zoning change because the owner of the property, Land Pro, had already paid the fees for the subdivision and invested nearly $6 million into the property over the past six years, council member Thom Hord said.
Two other subdivisions, Brighton Village and Heritage Trace, already got approval from the city for plans to build entry-level houses and have the right to stick to those plans as long as they build within a certain amount of time, Peeples said.
If the city council approves the changes in zoning to require larger lots, developers have the option of backing out of their plans to build or, if they are within three years of applying to build on the land, they can build under their original plans.
“I don’t understand why developers are mad,” Corey said. “Developers just want to put up as many houses as they can as cheap as they can. I don’t understand the push back. Developers only focus on what’s best for them, and it shows their motives.”
Beazer Homes is building the Heritage Trace subdivision on Emerson Avenue, south of Worthsville Road, and the company is opposed to rezoning, Henderson said. And if the city approves the rezoning, Beazer will still build according to the original plans, he said.
“Just because it’s a smaller lot doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive or lower quality,” he said.
If the Greenwood City Council gives approval, these are some of the changes that will come to the four targeted areas.
- Less density: Homes will be built on larger lots, and that means fewer homes per subdivision.
- Size: Lots where homes would be built will go from 6,500 square feet to 9,000 to 12,000 square feet.
- Materials: The city wants better quality homes built with stone and brick.
- Price: The city wants homes priced at $250,000 or more. Council members are looking for homes that cost $300,000 and up.