PICKENS COUNTY — The controversial decision by the Pickens County Planning Commission to approve a gated housing development on Glassy Mountain is again under fire following an appeal filed in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Common Pleas.
The appeal, filed by the conservation group Upstate Forever and two local residents, comes on the heels of the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the development just over a month ago.
Pickens County residents Shelly Smith and Douglas Hinkle appear on the documents as co-plaintiffs in the filings against the County Planning Commission and Glassy Mountain Holdings, LLC.
Both Smith and Hinkle own property next to the proposed development site and are the beneficiaries of easements across The Summit.
“The (Planning) Commission’s decision to approve the Application should be reversed because it is an abuse of discretion, is clearly erroneous, is contrary to law and is not supported by evidence,” reads the court documents, obtained by The Sentinel-Progress.
According to the original application submitted to the Commission, “The Summit at Glassy” is a proposed residential subdivision to be located along the ridge of Glassy Mountain in Pickens.
The site, which consists of nearly 183 acres, is set to be developed into 247 lots including tennis courts and a pool.
“First off, there is no question that this development would negatively impact Glassy Mountain,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever. “The Glassy Mountain Heritage Trust Preserve is much more than just a rock outcropping — it is a protected area that hosts several rare and threatened plant species and provides critical habitat to wildlife.”
The large, intact land parcels that surround it act as a buffer, said Cooper, and that the proposed home subdivision is “one of those critical buffer areas.”
“If developed — especially at the scale proposed — there could be devastating impacts to the nearby natural resources,” she said. “Similarly, this is a landscape that Pickens County residents cherish. The proposed development — at its massive scale — would adversely impact that landscape dramatically and forever.”
The appeal states Pickens County Uniform Development Standards Ordinance (UDSO) requires the Planning Commission to consider certain factors before approving any application — including whether the proposed use is consistent with other uses in the area or the general development patterns occurring in the area.
“The (Planning) Department’s report stated, ‘[t]he area has not been … developed with residential subdivisions consisting of anything more than individual, moderate to large residential tracts,’” the filings read.
“The proposed development falls within a character area on the future land use map referred to as Rural Residential, an area that, according to the plan, ‘intends to maintain an agrarian character in outlying areas which include active, mostly small-scale, farming operations and large homes sites,’” said Cooper. “Clearly, this proposed development does not fall in line with the spirit of what was intended for this area of the county.”
Additionally, the appeal asserts Glassy Mountain Holdings, LLC was required to submit a sketch plan with its application that included, without limitation, all proposed rights-of-way with applicable widths — something the plaintiffs argue was not included.
“The Summit will have points of entry from North Glassy Mountain Road and Glassy Mountain Church Road, as approved by the Commission. Both roads are approximately 18 feet wide,” the documents read. “According to the USDO, The Summit’s main entrance must be from a ‘minor collector road or higher.’ Pickens County does not have a minimum standard width for a ‘minor collector’ road but it is considered larger than a ‘residential collector’ road, which has a minimum standard width of 22 feet.”
Accordingly, both North Glassy Mountain Road and Glassy Mountain Church Road are too narrow to serve as points of entry to The Summit by at least four feet, the appeal reads.
“Let me assure you that Upstate Forever rarely opposes specific developments,” said Cooper. “The stakes with this proposal, however, are just too high for us to ignore. When the rights and gains of a few individuals are at the expense of the larger community, there is clearly a conflict. When an iconic natural resource is threatened, we cannot stand by idly and say nothing.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.