Regional Tool Kit: Introduction


There are currently roughly 1.36 million residents living within the ten-county Upstate region of South Carolina, which includes the counties of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, and Union. It is projected that by 2030 more than 1.6 million residents will reside in the Upstate.

While population growth is an important ingredient of community and economic vitality, if future growth is left completely unchecked, the financial costs for infrastructure needed to meet that growth could be staggering. Additionally, unplanned growth can lead to many unintended consequences including sprawling development, loss of timber and agricultural land, increased traffic congestion, and concerns related to water quality and quantity and air pollution.  

Regions across the country and globe that have been able to successfully grow both in population and economic vibrancy without negatively impacting the quality of life for residents have typically been places where individual communities have been diligent in developing and implementing long range plans while also collaborating with other communities in the region on cross-jurisdictional boundary issues. In other words, places where residents have taken the initiative to create a shared vision of their future have also found ways to promote desired growth.

While it is important that local communities have final responsibility for making decisions on how their community will grow, communicating with other communities within the region is fundamental for planning for future growth. Identifying commonalities and opportunities to model local, national and global best practices better ensures communities within a region are making local decisions that are consistent with the desires of their residents and not in conflict with decisions being made in other communities within the region.

Thoughtful local and regional planning can also help support the rights of individual property owners by ensuring that they have protection to maintain their property as desired and that all property in an area is consistent with its surroundings.

To ensure an understanding exists of what residents across a wide region with both urban and rural areas desire for their community, many regions across the country have undertaken "regional visioning" exercises where residents look at future growth projections and provide input on how they would like to see future development occur. Because growth across a region is fluid and can change based on economic conditions, the greatest value in these exercises is not in creating a specific land use map, but in identifying the patterns and type of growth preferred by residents.

Vision exercises also help identify priorities among residents and which issues are most important when looking toward the future.

In the Upstate region, more than 10,000 residents from across the ten counties provided input on what mattered most to them when looking at future growth during a year-long campaign to create a Shared Upstate Growth Vision. This process was shepherded by the regional collaboration organization Ten at the Top, which hosted community meetings, conducted surveys, and made presentations to ensure that input was received from residents in each county across the Upstate.

The result was Our Upstate Vision, which calls for the Upstate South Carolina Region in 2030 to be universally recognized as one of the leading places in the United States to live, learn, do business and raise a family.
The vision identified five key areas where regional collaboration can help ensure that the Upstate reaches its full potential. These five focus areas are human potential, economic & entrepreneurial vitality, sustainable growth, natural beauty & resources and community vibrancy.

There are a variety of activities that local governments, organizations, corporations and individuals can undertake to promote these drivers including promotion of local planning tools and action.

This Regional Tool Kit was created through the graduate program in City and Regional Planning at Clemson University under the direction of Dr. Barry Nocks.

The Tool Kit seeks to provide a brief and understandable overview of key planning concepts, terms, and tools that are available to local governments in the Upstate.  It contains an overview of the South Carolina enabling legislation for planning as well as brief explanations of a variety of planning related tools and concepts in the areas of:

1.    Plans and processes
2.    Quality growth planning and affordable housing
3.    Sustainable design
4.    Transportation
5.    Environmental stewardship

In addition, there are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about planning in general and a summary table of planning tools currently used by Upstate governments.

The purpose of this tool kit is not to create a set of regional guidelines that must be followed by local communities. Instead, this document is designed to provide all communities within the region with access to and awareness of common practices and successful examples of different community planning options.

Local communities are encouraged to utilize this tool kit as a support resource and are free to investigate the possibility of implementing any component that is consistent with its local plans and that can help the community reach its local goals.

Communities are also encouraged to communicate with others within the region to identify opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, especially on issues of regional significance.

This document will be updated on a regular basis and will be housed electronically on the Upstate Information Hub (