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South Carolina Land Use Planning (1-SC-a)

In South Carolina land use planning regulatory authority is delegated to both municipal and county levels of government through the establishment of local planning commissions. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-340. The local planning commission constitutes “a municipal planning commission, a county planning commission, a joint city-county planning commission, or a consolidated government planning commission.” S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-310.


A developer should ensure the project complies with the adopted land use plans and zoning regulations of the municipality or county in which the project is located. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-310 et seq.


The purpose of having local comprehensive land use plans in South Carolina is to “promote public health, safety, morals, convenience, prosperity, or the general welfare as well as the efficiency and economy of its area jurisdiction. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-340.



Land Use Planning Process

1-SC-a.1 – Is there a Comprehensive Land Use Plan in Place?

South Carolina does not have a statewide comprehensive land use plan. Instead, it has local comprehensive land use plans that are regulated, managed and designed by the local planning commission of the respective county or municipality. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-340

1-SC-a.2 – Contact Local Planning Commission and Review Local Plan

As each county or municipality has their own local comprehensive land use plan, the developer should check the local government website, or contact the municipal or county clerk, or planning board to access and review the local comprehensive land use plan in the jurisdiction for which the proposed action is to take place.

1-SC-a.3 to 1-SC-a.4 – Does the Project Require a Proposal to Amend a Local Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

After reviewing the local comprehensive land use plan, the developer should contact the local planning commission of the jurisdiction in which the proposed action is to take place should it seem that an amendment to the local comprehensive land use plan is necessary.

1-SC-a.5 – Review Municipal and County Zoning Regulations

The developer should review the applicable municipal and county zoning regulations to ensure the project complies with the zoning regulations.

In implementing its local comprehensive land use plan, “the governing body of a municipality or county may adopt a zoning ordinance to help implement the comprehensive plan…and carry out the purposes” of such plan. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-720. Zoning ordinances are intended for “the general purposes of guiding development in accordance with existing and future needs and promoting the public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, appearance, prosperity and general welfare.” S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-710. Further, zoning ordinances must be made with reasonable consideration to the following elements, when applicable:

  • To provide for adequate light, air and open space;
  • To prevent the overcrowding of land, to avoid undue concentration of population, and to lessen congestion in the streets;
  • To protect and preserve scenic, historic, or ecologically sensitive areas;
  • To regulate the density and distribution of populations and the uses of buildings, structures and land for residency, businesses, trade and industry;
  • To facilitate the adequate provision or availability of transportation, police and fire protection water, sewage, schools, parks, affordable housing, and other public services and requirements;
  • To secure safety from fire, flood and other dangers; and
  • To future the public welfare.

S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-710.

1-SC-a.6 to 1-SC-a.7 – Does the Project Require a Variation to a Zoning Ordinance?

If a proposed project does not comply with zoning regulations or when strict application of the zoning ordinance would cause an unnecessary hardship, the developer may submit an appeal for a variance to the local zoning board of appeals in the jurisdiction where the proposed project is to take place. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2).

The zoning board of appeals has the power to hear and decide appeals for variances. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2).

1-SC-a.8 – Contact Municipality for Application Form, Complete and Submit Appeal for a Variance

A developer should contact the county or municipal department of community development in the jurisdiction where the proposed project is to take place, for access to the application form to submit an appeal for a variance. The developer should then file the Application to Appeal for a Variance with the local government accordingly. Cite?

1-SC-a.9 – Publish Public Notice

After the developer files its Application to Appeal for a Variance, the local zoning board of appeals sets a time for hearing the appeal and publishes public notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality or county and mail notice to interested parties. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-760(A). Interested parties include the property owner whose land is the subject of the appeal for a variance or whose property is adjacent to the land that is the subject of the appeal for a variance. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-760(A).

Further, the local zoning board of appeals posts a conspicuous notice on or adjacent to the property affected, with at minimum one such notice being visible from each public entrance that abuts the property. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-760(A).

1-SC-a.10 – Submit Comments on Appeal for Variance

Interested parties are allowed to present oral or written comments to the board. They must provide notice to the local zoning board of appeals at least 10 days before the hearing. Interested parties include owners whose land is the subject of a proposed amendment, owners of adjoining property or their representatives. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-760(B) and (C)

1-SC-a.11 – Hold Public Hearing

The local zoning board of appeals must hold a public hearing before issuing a decision on an appeal for a variance. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-760(A).

1-SC-a.12 to 1-SC-a.13 – Review and Issue Decision on Appeal for Variance

The local zoning board of appeals has 30 days within which to review an appeal for a variance and submit a report to the applicant on its decision. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(1). If the board fails to submit a report to the applicant within the 30 days, it is deemed to have approved the variance. Its decision cannot be based on an arbitrary, unreasonable, or discriminating action. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(1) Further, the board may only grant a variance if the proposed action is one in which the board is able to make and explain the following findings:

  • Extraordinary conditions: There are extraordinary and exceptional conditions pertaining to the particular piece of property. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2)(a).
  • Other property: These conditions do not generally apply to other property in the vicinity. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2)(b).
  • Utilization: The appeal for a variance to a particular piece of property would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of the property. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2)(c).
  • Detriment: The authorization of a variance will not substantially harm the adjacent property or public good, and the character of the district will not be harmed by the granting of the variance.

S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-800(A)(2)(d).

1-SC-a.14 – Appeal Decision (Optional)

An interested party, whether a developer or a person who may have a substantial interest in a decision of the local zoning board of appeals, can appeal within 30 days of the decision being issued, to the circuit court. The interested party is required to file with the clerk of the circuit court a petition, in writing, that explains “plainly, fully, and distinctly” that the zoning board of appeals’ decision is contrary to law. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-820(a).

If the interested party is a property owner whose land is the subject of a decision of the local zoning board of appeals, there are two appeal options. They may either appeal by filing a petition, in writing, with the clerk of the circuit court like any interested party, or they may file, within 30 days of the decision being issued, a notice of appeal with the circuit court accompanied by a request for pre-litigation mediation. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-820(B)(1) and (2) and S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-310(11)(a).

Finally, if an interested party is aggrieved by the judgment rendered by the circuit court, they may appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court. S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-820(C) The interested party is required to file its notice of appeal to the Supreme Court within 30 days of receiving written notice of entry of the circuit court order. S.C.R. App. P. R. 203(a) and (d).


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