In an effort to gain control over the environmental impacts from development projects on Lake Greenwood, county leaders have finalized a landmark ordinance that carries sizable fines for violators.
On Tuesday, the County Council approved an erosion and sedimentation control plan preventing any land disturbances from taking place without a building inspection permit – and that won’t be issued until either county or state regulators approve the proposal.
Language in the ordinance also allows developers who run afoul of their own erosion and sediment control plans to be fined $1,000 a day until the problem is fixed.
“If deemed necessary, the building official may revoke the permit and obtain injunctive relief to enjoin violations of the provisions of this article, and any person damaged as a result of such violations may, upon proper showing of such damages, obtain payment therefor by a civil action,” the ordinance said.
The creation of such an ordinance has been a top priority within the county’s engineering department for several years.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” County Engineer Rob Russian said. The ordinance pertains to any parcel within Greenwood County’s part of the Lake Impact Area — about 10% of all properties.
Russian said the county has about 39,000 parcels, with 3,900 inside the lake impact zone.
County Council chairman Steve Brown wanted to know how a local ordinance would complement the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s authority to handle erosion and sediment control issues around the lake.
“DHEC is the regulating authority on sediment and erosion control throughout the state. They do delegate some of those powers to individual counties. In our county, though, they are the regulatory authority,” Russian said.
Having local oversight allows county officials to mobilize more quickly than DHEC could, given its limited resources and large jurisdiction.
“They typically concentrate on the larger developments, the commercial developments, the developments greater than two acres,” Russian said. The county is putting a greater focus on projects that take up a smaller amount of space, and residential lots on the lake.
“We’re concentrating on the hole that DHEC has there for lack of resources, and we’re filling that with a land disturbance permit to supplement what they’re doing,” Russian said.
He said an employee within the county’s building department completed a Certified Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control Inspector Program through Clemson University.
Brown said he supported creating such an ordinance, but only if there was a commitment to enforce it.
“I like the ordinance and I think we ought to have one, and I think our constituents have told us that they think we ought to have one, but I’d rather not have one than to have it and it not be enforced,” Brown said. “My people in my district ride up and down the lake and are finding things that we as a county ought to be finding.”
Russian said public input will be necessary to ensure development is happening properly along the lake’s 212-mile shoreline.
Officials also hope neighboring counties with lake impact areas of their own will adopt Greenwood’s ordinance.
“They seem open to it,” Russian said. “I think we wrote a very simple ordinance that could be ran through their building inspections department as well. Like anybody, they’re short on resources as well and already going out there for other inspections. If they had the ordinance in place, at least they’d have the authority to do something about it.”
Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.