Edgefield County Council voted on the third reading of an ordinance to authorize Council to provide economic incentives to certain businesses at their most recent monthly meeting, Dec. 4. However, the vote did not come before four citizens gave input on the measure during the public comments portions of the meeting. Two of those speakers, Mayors Ken Durham and Terrence Culbreath, spoke in favor of the ordinance. Culbreath called the incentives “a good idea…definitely”, and Durham called them “certainly a good gesture” also saying that the incentives tell investors that the towns and county have a good relationship. While the two support the move, they also both stated how they would like to see the towns, themselves, included in the investment areas. Linda Anderson, however, told Council that the Merriwether area, which is not included as an investment area, should be included. She described the “outer limits” of the county as “leaking retailers” and stated that it is “not the whole county’s responsibility to save the towns.” John Pettigrew congratulated Council on recognizing the need for investment within the towns and urged them to expand the target investment areas to within the towns’ limits as well as other ends of the county. “If business locates anywhere within county lines, it’s a good thing,” he said. When Council’s discussion over the matter began, they were informed that there were no changes to the ordinance’s third reading. The businesses which might be eligible for incentives, which may include refunds of permits, a portion of taxes for a specified term, and/or other considerations that Council may approve, are those making a minimum $100,000 investment in an area designated as an investment zone. Those zones are contiguous to the Towns of Edgefield, Johnston, and Trenton. Councilman Scott Cooper told Council that he is “very concerned about our county” referencing closing businesses and empty storefronts but called this ordinance a “band aid”. He further stated that his concern is that the revenue to fund this initiative comes from his district and that since his district is not directly benefiting from this measure he feels it will create divisions that people have worked years to heal. However, pointing out that this measure costs nothing for the County to implement, Chairman Dean Campbell stated that he did not believe this ordinance created division saying that the County does different things all the time for different areas throughout all the county. He said that every move taken by Council is not meant to be a “peanut butter spread” for the County. As an example of this, he referenced the MOU with the Merriwether area and Water & Sewer that benefits no other area in the county but Merriwether. Campbell reminded that the incentives are meant to bring investment to areas where it is needed; not in areas already experiencing growth. Councilman Art Biggs stated that as any portion of the county grows, the entire county is helped. He further stated that he does not support giving incentives to areas that do not need it. Biggs described the towns as “struggling” and said that they need help. When finally put to a vote, this measure passed 4-1 with Cooper opposing it.
In new business, Council heard a request to rezone 2 parcels of land on Martintown Road that are adjacent to Laurelwood Landscaping from Resident Development to Limited Commercial. It was explained that this change will allow Laurelwood to use the lot for their landscaping business and would also allow RD Brown Contractors to relocate their contractor’s office to the site. Council was advised that the Planning Commission voted unanimously to support this rezoning. Additionally, Council was informed that there are stipulations attached to this rezoning; the site has to be developed in the way it was proposed and presented, and it must be developed within 5 years. If these stipulations are not met, the property will revert back to its original zoning. This measure passed its first reading unanimously.
In other new business, Council appointed Sharon Wall to the Economic Development Partnership Board and approved a Medical Director Services Agreement between Self Medical Group and Edgefield County Emergency Medical Services. Both of these items received Council’s full support.
A public hearing was held regarding Phase III of the zoning of the Hwy 25 Corridor. There were no public comments, however, and this ordinance passed its subsequent second reading unanimously. In a related matter, Phase II of this project also passed its third and final reading unanimously.
A second reading regarding a FILO agreement for Project Scott was agreed to by all of Council. Project Scott is being described as a project that will invest a minimum of $2.5 million in Edgefield County. The agreement fixes the millage rate at its current rate of 341.21 mils with 6% assessment and a 15% Special Source Revenue Credit for a period of 30 years. A matter related to Project Scott, the establishment of a multi-county industrial park with Saluda County, also passed with Council’s full support. This is just a procedural function and will not involve creating a new industrial park nor require investment on the part of Edgefield County. Councilman Biggs said of this ordinance, “This is a big deal” and highlighted the fact that Edgefield County will get 99% of the funds from this agreement as opposed to the usual 1%.
In his closing comments, Administrator Tommy Paradise told Council that after completing the 2017-2018 Worker’s Compensation Payroll Audit, the County received a reimbursement check for $30,686. Paradise also informed Council that staff has mailed 272 surveys to local businesses in Edgefield County to provide them with an opportunity to provide input to Council and staff regarding any issues or concerns they may have.
In his closing comments, Chairman Dean Campbell said that Council has accomplished “a great deal” in the last year and thanked Council and staff for their hard work. He also noted that this meeting was the final for Councilman James Bibbs who will be replaced on Council in January. Each Councilman spoke to Bibbs’ service to the County while on Council. Councilman Biggs said that Bibbs “put in a whole lot of work” especially in regards to the Hwy 25 zoning. Councilman Albert Talbert called Bibbs “a great asset” and said, “We’re going to miss you.” Bibbs was presented with a plaque commemorating his time on Council. He thanked his fellow Councilmen for their “gracious comments” and likened his time serving on Council to his time in the army.
Council did go into an executive session but returned taking no action. With no other business to discuss, Council adjourned.