PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Pickens County Officials are predicting their area to grow by 20% over the next couple of years, and now they’re trying to preserve the beauty of the Highway 11 corridor. A new study is underway.

“We knew there was going to be population growth. We believe within 10 years, it’s going to grow by 20% and we’re halfway through that 10 year period, and we’re well on our way,” Roy Costner III, Vice Chairman of Pickens County Council.

“So growth is going to happen. Sprawl is going to happen. This is our last opportunity to preserve what we have up at Highway 11,” Costner said.

Some say Highway 11 is one on the most beautiful places in the state.

“As a matter of fact, there’s a place on Highway 11 that’s the most photographed placed in the entire state of South Carolina, which is a view of Table Rock, and we just put up an area for people to park, which is really cool,” Costner said.

Officials said the area is currently an unzoned area.

“There’s no zoning that’s in place. There’s no historical overlay for a corridor. So any kind of development can happen as long as it falls within the guidelines of our ordinances that we currently have within the county,” Costner said.

“What we’re looking as a council to do is, we know growth is happening, it’s coming that way. We’ve got basically three choices. We could do nothing and let it happen. We can put something in place that is more of an overlay of what’s expected, if you build it has to look like this, or we could put zoning restrictions in place. We’ve never done zoning in Pickens County, because we’re very conservative. We really do believe in personal property rights. So, it’s kind of a dilemma. We want to keep what we have, yet how do you protect the people who own the property their rights for whatever you want to do or build,” Costner said.

The County has commissioned a study with the Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) for the corridor study on Highway 11. According to the county’s website, a large part of the area has remained undeveloped, and officials hope there will be a long-term vision for the area.

“There are no plans to develop. We’re not thinking, alright, this is going to set us up so we can start developing Highway 11,” Costner said.

“That’s not what we want to do at all. We’re just seeing if we don’t do something now, it’s going to develop one way or the other and we want to make sure we’ve got some sort of guidance in place, that does what the citizens who live in Pickens County want and continue to preserve what everybody wants to enjoy,” he said.

An article on the Pickens County website said, “out of that vision, there will be recommended policies and actions to guide how the corridor should be maintained or changed in the future. Policies and actions could be in the form of design guidelines, infrastructure improvements, tree preservation, setbacks, etc.”

Costner said community forums have been held for the public’s input. He also said there are several focus groups for this project. Now, the county is pushing for more public engagement that could be key in shaping the areas’ future.

“We want to preserve what we have to the best that we can, to maintain that quality of life for the people who live there and for the people who want to come and enjoy being there,” Costner said. “I think that it’s very important that people know that we’re not proactively trying to figure out a way to develop, we’re proactively trying to figure out a way to preserve what we love about the county, and to protect the property rights of the people who live there,” he explained.

Costner said ACOG will continue to gather data, collected from the community. He said ACOG will then develop a suggested plan to present to the full county council. Costner said ACOG should have those plans in January.

The county’s website says more details are in the works, click here to learn more about the study.