PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Pickens County Council members made a decision about the fate of Highway 11 that runs through its county on Monday night.

This comes after council members have been working on a Highway 11 preservation study for a scenic alternative to I-85.

“Tonight’s vote on the ordinance pertaining to Highway 11, and the protection of Highway 11, is so important because it’s been a long time coming,” said council chairman Chris Bowers. “It’s been talked about by our council, for many years.”

“More than a year ago, we really started with this study,” said Bowers. “It has been a conversation for a long time. So, the vote tonight, will solidify, what we’ve heard loud and clear – that folks want to protect our natural resources. They want to protect what God’s given us, truthfully. The mountains, the streams, the lakes just the beauty and that’s really what it’s all about tonight,” Bowers said.

Council members voted five to one, to protect what they said are private properties along Highway 11.

“Without this ordinance in place, people can go up there to build whatever they want to. This ordinance will do the opposite of that. So, this ordinance basically puts in place restrictions on any commercial development, but doesn’t hurt anyone’s personal property rights,” said Roy Costner, Vice-Chair of Pickens County Council.

Costner said there’s no big plan for development right now.

“We want to put these protections in place just so that, if you want to build a commercial building, cool, you can, but you’ve got to follow these guidelines,” Costner said.

Council proposed measures like a 150-foot barrier between the roadway and any development, and no heavy industrial development.

“It won’t seem like a lot of changes for many. You’ll have to maybe follow some color palette or maybe your building faces the right direction, if you want to build something more than residential. But, if all you’re looking for is residential, you’re not going to know a difference at all,” Bowers said.

Costner also said they are basically restricting any commercial development where you can see it from Highway 11.

Commercial businesses must follow design standards.

“So in other words, if they’re going to build something, it’s got to look a certain way,” Costner said.

Leaders said they’re trying to put in restrictions to preserve the area.

“What we’re ultimately are trying to achieve is when you drive down Highway 11, it’s a scenic Highway 11. That your view is not impeded by big buildings or by man-made structures. What we’re trying to do is in a way, kind of like the National Forestry Service does, where you preserve an area, and you leave it undisturbed,” Bowers said. “We want you to be able to use your land, but just make it fit to where when you’re driving down Highway 11, you can see our beautiful Table Rock or you can see that beautiful lake or those streams,” he said.  

“This ordinance actually takes that USDO (Unified Sustainable Development Ordinance), a step further, and it talks about some of the building materials or what the building structure needs to look like or how much can be viewable from the road,” Bowers said. “Those are the things that are in the ordinance. It just kinds of strengthens and solidifies what’s already in place,” he said.  

Councilman Alex Saitta is the only member who voted against the ordinance. He said it doesn’t go far enough, adding that the 150-foot barrier provides little additional protection.

The ordinance was passed after third and final reading.