News from 206 South Main Street
FOCUSING ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION AND PREPARING FOR A NEW LAND MANAGEMENT DEVELOPMENT CODE THAT SUPPORTS OUR PRIORITIES
Fall is officially here and kicked off with a challenge to our city in the form of Hurricane Ian. Thankfully, Greenville was spared but it was a good test of our preparedness and I commend our city staff for having a plan in place to ensure our safety. Our city’s first responders, notably the Greenville Police Department, Greenville Fire Department and our Department of Public Works, stand ready to support our residents and stakeholders.
We are on the cusp of advancing some “heavy lifts” on City Council and I expect the next quarter will include substantial progress in support of our priorities. In September, we received a presentation from Bryan Brown, President and CEO of the Greenville Housing Fund (GHF), on our efforts towards providing the needed affordable housing supply in the city. The GHF is the non-profit partner of the City of Greenville for leveraging City budget allocations and land banking to support affordable housing projects. The GHF has identified approximately $21 million in project investments needed to provide over 1400 affordable housing units. Continued support from the City of Greenville is crucial to this endeavor. The City has committed $10 million towards affordable housing since 2020 and is projecting to commit $2.5 million per year in addition to land donations to be used to increase our affordable and workforce housing supply. Council will likely evaluate additional options for developing strategic funding to support the construction of affordable and workforce housing to accelerate our work in this area.
Measures to improve transportation in the City continue. With the installation of the bridges on the Laurens Road Swamp Rabbit Trail extension, we are on schedule to open the trail extension in December, from Cleveland Park to Verdae Boulevard. A small portion of this extension, known as the “Paperclip” that provides a designated trail out of Cleveland Park is expected to be completed in February, 2023; however, trail users may use Ebaugh Street to access the bridge over Laurens Road from Cleveland Park until the Paperclip is opened for public use. I expect we will begin design and estimating for the Verdae Boulevard crossing in the upcoming quarter. This project is an excellent example of how we are able to use tourism tax revenue to provide amenities in the city that benefit our whole community in the form of economic development and access to recreation, in addition to providing tourism enhancements. Our partnership with Greenville County on this project will ultimately allow us to connect our largest park, Cleveland Park, with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CUICAR) via the new 4.5 mile trail extension, funded by tourism tax revenue.
Improving transportation requires us to improve the infrastructure already in place and we will be able to do that in the next few years through our updated City of Greenville Paving Plan. Our $36 million Neighborhood Infrastructure Bond (NIB) includes approximately $6 million in paving projects. Recently, we successfully partnered with the Greenville Legislative Delegation Transportation Committee (GLDTC), also known as the C-Fund Committee, to significantly increase the scope of paving projects in the City of Greenville. I am grateful to the GLDTC committee that unanimously awarded the city $6 million in matching funds to our committed NIB funds. This funding match will allow us to accelerate our 7 year paving program and take advantage of better contracts and unit pricing. To view a preliminary list of roads that has been prepared for the 2023 paving program, which includes 92 streets and approximately 26 miles of resurfacing, please click here.
Our GVL2040 Comprehensive Plan for growth over the next 20 years identifies some essential characteristics that we value as a city: affordable housing opportunities, green space preservation, neighborhood preservation and transportation/mobility. To reach the metrics for growth that were established in GVL2040, we commissioned the writing of a new land management ordinance, called the Greenville Development Code, which will ultimately be codified to govern our zoning policies going forward. In July, we received a presentation from staff with an Overview of the Development Code. This “sneak peek” provides a good summary of how the new code will allow us to shift from a suburban development pattern to a more urban development pattern and support our land management objectives as growth continues. I expect we will receive a draft of this Code at the beginning of December and we are planning for adoption by Council in February, following review and adoption by the City Planning Commission. The new Greenville Development Code will impact every resident and stakeholder in the city at some level and I encourage everyone to become familiar with the GDC as it begins to advance through draft review, public comment and adoption by City Council.
Impactful Votes in the Past Quarter
Village of West Greenville Development, The Woven, Approved at First Reading (Council approved 4-3 with Dowe, Flemming and Gibson opposing)
The Woven is a mixed used planned development proposed on Pendleton Street between Saco and Traction Streets. The project was denied by the Planning Commission (5-1) due to concerns about mass, scale, setback and density. Following the denial, the developer requested to bring the project directly to Council for approval. At first reading in August, the The Woven was approved by Council (4-3) with some amendments to include staff and Design Review Board comments, as well as a directive to eliminate the top floor as proposed. Subsequently, a developer-led meeting was held with the neighborhood to discuss changes made to the project design since it was originally proposed in the PD.
I opposed this project at first reading because it was not in keeping with the objectives of our comprehensive plan, GVL2040, in terms of density and mass that appropriately transitions to the adjacent neighborhoods. GVL2040 calls for an average density of 30 units per acre and this project at first reading was 90 units per acre. My concern lies with the disproportionate size of the project as well as the capacity of the minimal 2-lane infrastructure surrounding the site. Although the project offers some affordability, the amount proposed was not sufficient for the impact needed in this area. It is my position that this project should be evaluated for conformance with the new Greenville Development Code which will be issued as a draft in December, to ensure it is in keeping with our development plans and goals for the future.
The Woven can be brought before Council for second and final reading in the future and will require a majority of Council to support it in order to proceed.
Approval to Provide Additional Funds for the Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT) Laurens Road Connection
This project will connect the SRT in Cleveland Park to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CUICAR) via a new extension running approximately 4.5 miles along an abandoned railway bed that runs parallel to Laurens Road. The extension is collectively funded by the City and Greenville County. A portion of this extension, called the “Paperclip”, required additional funds for completion due to escalating costs of labor and material supplies. The Paperclip will provide a new pathway from Richland Way to the new bridge over Laurens Road which was set in place last month. Council approved to provide the additional funding needed to complete the Paperclip from our annual budget allocation for Greenways and Trails, which is funded by our tourism tax revenues.
Resolution to Appoint the Inaugural City of Greenville Poet Laureate for a Two-Year Term
Recognizing the importance of the arts in our community, Council appointed Glenis Redmond as the first Poet Laureate for the City of Greenville. This is an honorary position aimed at promoting literacy and literature among city residents of all ages. As the Poet Laureate, Ms Redmond will participate in City of Greenville supported events as well as Community Center after-school or summer camp programs using the art of poetry to enlighten, educate and inspire emerging generations. She will also annually compose a commemorative poem related to a theme or topic integral to the City of Greenville.
Ms. Redmond is a renowned performance poet, founder of the Greenville Poetry Slam and former poet-in-residence for the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. She is the author of three books of poetry, with three additional books scheduled for publication in late 2022, and is currently working on a seventh collection. For more information on her remarkable achievements please click here.
Resolution in Support of Naming Opportunity for the Giraffe Feeding Deck at the Greenville Zoo
Greenville has always benefited from the generosity of our community. Our Greenville Zoo is poised for significant investment thanks to the generosity of Jim and Janice Cordes and the many donors who are contributing to the new Giraffe Feeding Deck. This enhancement will significantly improve the visitor’s experience and the Zoo estimates a minimum of 100,000 guests will utilize the Feed Station. The new Giraffe Feeding Deck will allow the Greenville Zoo to offer giraffe encounters to the public for the first time in the Zoo’s history.
Also in the category of good news for the Greenville Zoo, we recently welcomed South Carolina Representative Chandra Dillard to Council to announce a non-recurring (one time) grant of state funds to the Greenville Zoo in the amount of $1 million! We are grateful to our SC delegation for supporting this request from the City of Greenville. These funds will be used to advance the priorities of the zoo and support its mission of species conservation and community education.
Notable Issues & Opportunities on the Horizon
Public meetings have begun for each of the four City Council districts. Going forward, City Councilmembers will cooperatively work together to redefine the district boundaries such that our population as determined by the 2020 Census is distributed evenly across the four districts for representation. This will result in approximately 17,680 residents as counted by the census in each of the four districts. Currently, District 4 (Brasington) has 23,480 residents; therefore, approximately 5,800 residents must be reapportioned out of District 4 and into one of the other three districts. There will be more public meetings as the redistricting process continues and I encourage you to become familiar with the guidelines for this process by visiting the City of Greenville Redistricting page on our website.
Greenlink Citizen’s Transit Academy Application Open
The Greenlink Citizen Transit Academy is a free, six-week program designed to offer Greenville County residents a unique opportunity to learn about public transportation and the opportunities and challenges facing Greenlink. Up to 30 people will be selected from the pool of applicants and classes will be held on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8 pm beginning January 4, 2023. Click here for more information and a link to the application. The deadline to apply for the 2023 Academy is October 31st.
Pedestrian Safety Study Contiues with Opportunities for Public Engagement
In 2021, the city partnered with Stantec Consulting Services to study pedestrian safety and develop a plan to increase safety by reducing the rate and number of fatal and injury crashes involving pedestrians. The study is complementary to SCDOT’s statewide Pedestrian Safety Plan. The city study area includes 46 total corridors identified based on traffic volume and pedestrian crash history, as well as 18 school zones. Please click here for a presentation listing the corridors within the study and other areas slated for improvement. I expect a final report including a list of proposed safety projects to be provided to council in early 2023. These projects will be considered closely for funding as we enter our budget season in the first quarter of 2023.
Early Voting and Statewide Election Day November 8th
In person early voting will begin Monday, October 24th and last through Friday, November 5th. Early voting will be available on Monday – Saturday, (closed Sundays) from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. during this period. For a list of locations for in-person early voting please click here. Now is a good time to verify your voter information, confirm your polling precinct for election day voting, and check what will be on your ballot. You can view this information through the Vote 411 website provided by the League of Women Voters, or, by checking online at SCVotes.gov.
Representing City Council on Boards & Commissions
ALL THINGS TRANSPORTATION & TOURISM
As a member of Council, I serve as the Council Representative to the Greenville Transit Authority (GTA) which oversees our Greenlink public transportation system. I also serve as the Council Representative to the Greenville Airport Commission for our downtown airport, and the Visit Greenville SC (VGSC) Board of Directors. VisitGreenvilleSC (VGSC) is Greenville’s official sales and marketing nonprofit organization, with the primary goal of enhancing the long-term economic development of our community through increased visitor trips and visitor spending.
Here are some updates and points that may be of interest to you:
In September, the Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU)
bid farewell to Joe Frasher who retired as the Airport Director after more than 39 years of service. In recognition of his dedicated service to South Carolina as director of the busiest general aviation airport in the state, Joe was awarded the Order of the Palmetto at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, held in Greenville last month. We will miss working with Joe very much and look forward to continuing the strong partnership between the City of Greenville and the Downtown Airport under the leadership of the new Airport Director James Stephens.
The VisitGreenvilleSC staff and Board invite you to join in honoring Eugenia Duke’s legacy as we bring the community together to make 10,000 sandwiches for donation to local organizations. Volunteers are needed to help on November 3, 2022, also known as National Sandwich Day! Sandwich making will be from 10 am until 4 pm in the Wyche Pavilion; the same location where the Duke’s factory once stood. Volunteers are asked to sign up for 2-hour shifts using this link.
So why 10,000 sandwiches? Legend has it that Eugenia Duke began selling homemade sandwiches for $.10 each to soldiers at Camp Sevier just outside of Greenville in 1917. In the spring of 1919, she sold more than 10,000 sandwiches in one day as the story goes.
The Greenville Transit Authority was awarded a RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) Grant for over $5.8 million from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to improve approximately 336 bus stops throughout Greenville County. Amenities will include a mix of shelters, push button lighting, and benches. The goal of the project is to improve the public transit customer experience and to encourage more people to get onboard. The project will increase transportation equity by expanding options for Greenlink users. Additionally, the project will improve safety by implementing solar powered push button technologies to enable security lights during low visibility transit hours of operation. Greenlink’s “Investing in Countywide Infrastructure to Equitably and Sustainably connect Greenville” Grant was only one of two RAISE grants that were awarded in South Carolina.