_ By Tiffani Ireland –
Nearly a year ago, Enova Energy Group, a wood pellet processing company from Georgia, announced that it would be opening a processing plant in Edgefield County. That announcement, coupled with the request for property rezoning on Hwy 121, has led citizens to believe the plant is seeking to locate there and has led some to questioned if behind-closed-doors tactics have been used in bringing the company to the Trenton area. In fact, The Advertiser’s July 28 edition published a letter to the editor raising such concerns. In an effort to clear up what has been described as misinformation to the public, The Advertiser spoke Tuesday, Aug. 6, with Edgefield County Administrator Lynn Strom regarding this possible addition to the manufacturing landscape of Trenton.
Mrs. Strom said that she did not know of the plans the plant had to open a site in Trenton until she, like the rest of the public, was notified about it through local media outlets back in Sept. 2012, when the company made their initial announcement. As she explained, negotiations with industries who might look into locating to Edgefield are conducted by the Economic Development Partnership. These negotiations, by state level nondisclosure agreements, are kept confidential to protect the company and its interest. That is why, if asked if a particular business may be coming to the county, inquirers are often told no comment can be made on that account. Further, Mrs. Strom advised that Council is brought into the loop, so to speak, when a FILO (Fee in Lieu of) Agreement is requested. It is a that time that Council is made aware of the business’ intentions so they can either approve or deny a FILO. However, the company’s name is typically still not released to the public until a third reading of the FILO ordinance is given at which time its identity is required.
According to Mrs. Strom, she did not know in Sept., and still does not know, what are Enova’s intentions in Edgefield County. However, she does concede that she can see where interest has peaked again over this plant’s possible opening in light of the property owners’ recent application to change the zoning of the property from its current General Development to Industrial Development in what they said is an effort to make the property more marketable. As it is currently zoned, General Development allows for the location of commercial and some manufacturing businesses. A change to Industrial Development would allow for the location of most industrial companies. (Visit the County’s website to view a chart detailing which companies are and are not allowed in each zone.) While this measure failed in a tie vote (see our article covering County Council’s meeting for full details), Mrs. Strom cautions nearby residents that this does not mean that change or a manufacturing business will not come to that area anyway. Although it is currently being used for agricultural purposes, any manufacturing company that falls within the guidelines listed under General Development would currently be allowed to locate there.
For those concerned about the rezoning issue, Strom reminds citizens that a public hearing would be given on the matter before the second reading of a rezoning ordinance is held. One of the issues Council would examine in regards to voting on rezoning would be the area that surrounds the property. The property in question with this issue is located on Hwy 121; an area that is already predominately zoned General Development. Also of note, a manufacturing company, Ridge Recyclers, currently operates directly across from the property in question. In addition, property bordering the backside of this property is already listed as Industrial Development.
As previously mentioned, this rezoning request of the property owners did fail at Council’s most recent meeting. However, the matter is expected to be taken up again next month. Citizens are reminded two public speaking sections are provided in the meetings for anyone who wishes to address Council on these concerns. Additionally, letters may be sent at any time to the administrator and Council members regarding any concerns citizens may have.