Moratorium of Subdivision Developments Called For

Moratorium of Subdivision Developments Called For

By Arthur Northrop

I made two mistakes in the November 25, 2020 article headlinedLarge Crowd Attends Planning Commission Meeting. First, Fab Burt was listed as Chairperson. That was incorrect. James Oliver was elected Chairperson at the start of the November 12, 2020, Planning Commission meeting. Second, I referred to the Land Maintenance Ordinance in the article.  That should have read Land Management Ordinance.

During the August 2020 Zoom Edgefield County Council meeting, John Pettigrew submitted a request during the meeting’s public input period. Pettigrew suggested the County Council consider placing a moratorium on new subdivision developments. Pettigrew, like the growing number of Edgefield County residents, feel a temporary pause may be in order to allow adequate time to fully evaluate the impact of the possible 1500-2000 homes to be built in new subdivisions. Pettigrew questioned what drastic changes to the county’s zoning would have on our County’s infrastructure such as roads, schools, water and sewer, and fire and law protection among other services due to a sharp increase in the county’s population. 

As some of the County Council at the August 2020 Zoom County Council meeting voiced their views on pausing development, Tommy Paradise shared his position with the council’s members. Paradise said the county should not stop development temporary because plans are already in place, the county is not getting overrun, the county has momentum going, and a moratorium would make developers question if they want to invest with the county. Paradise also made the point that Edgefield County needs to sell houses to the people moving to the area to work at Fort Gordon.

James Oliver, the newly elected chairperson of the Planning Commission read a statement outlining his motion to reject the proposal for the approval of a subdivision at the November 12 meeting. He listed the several reasons for voting against the proposed residential subdivision development based on the Edgefield County Comprehensive Plan whichhas not been approved by County Council. Oliver’s concerns included increased traffic, the development would not be in harmony with pastoral scenery in the surrounding area, the availability of water and sewer services, and controlling lot size due to use of septic tanks and the need for large drain fields.

Oliver also noted that existing developments in the area had lots that would not perk and thus could not be built on and that there are property owners in the area who had to modify septic systems at their own expense. Those septic systems had previously been approved by DHEC. 

He acknowledged the Merriwether area is the fastest growing area in Edgefield County and could broaden the county’s tax base, but there is a need to plan for growth and development. He explained that unrestricted growth that does not consider lot sizes to accommodate septic tanks, may potentially pollute recreation resources and neighboring property as well as drinking water in the area. 

Oliver advocated that any developments of three or more houses should be built on larger lots with larger drain fields. Oliver describe the development of high-density lot development as sprawl. Sprawl happens when residential development outpaces the necessary services needed to be provided. Oliver also said there is a need to balance new development with traffic concerns and utility capacity and to protect existing homeowners’ investments.

Both Oliver and Frank Gabriel, District 2, voiced concerns regarding the traffic from the subdivision going in near the Currytown and MealingRoad intersection. Gabriel made the point the development could bring 60 to 90 more cars using the intersection and the increased traffic has potential for more collisions. Oliver noted the danger in the area is increased due to the flammable fuel tankers at the Currytown and Sweetwater intersection which is where the fuel terminal is located. Oliver noted there would be more traffic accidents due to additional driveways, no shoulder lining, and limited sight distance while driving in the area.

Oliver pointed out the county was well on its way to developing a Land Management Ordinance (LMO) that would have provided guidance and specific requirement to the Planning Commission for development in the Merriwether area and the entire county. He stated in August of 2020 the LMO was put on hold by County Council. At this point, the planning commission can only use the Comprehensive Plan to make decisions about proposed development.

Oliver stated if the county council had placed a moratorium on development when they placed a hold on the LMO, that would have been appropriate. Oliver’s statement can be viewed in minutes: 2:23:24 to 2:31.48 of the over four-hour Planning Commission meeting. Search for November 12, 2020 Planning Commission Work Session & Meeting on YouTube. 

Each County Council member recommends a member of the Planning Commission and the council appoints two members to serve at-large. On the December 1, 2020 County Council agenda Scott Cooper is slated to replace Oliver with Todd Brown. Councilman Talbert has nominated James Fab Burt to continue serving. Councilman Dean has nominated Tracy Hamilton to replace Buddy Smith and Councilwoman Kennion has nominated Karlene Butler to replace James Johnson. 

The Edgefield County Council’s Planning Commission appointments are on the December 1, 2020’s consent agenda. A consent item on an agenda is used for routine or noncontroversial items and are adopted in a single vote without discussion.     

9 Responses to "Moratorium of Subdivision Developments Called For"

  1. Dan Bergtholdt   December 15, 2020 at 6:06 am

    I have not seen discussion of requirements for turn lanes to be added at developer cost for safe and efficient ingress and egress for these developments. This is just one of a larger list of minimum requirements that should be added to any development.
    Also, in addition to septic concerns, there should be stringent controls on storm water management whereby the guy at the bottom of the hill isn’t facing drainage from every lot and rooftop above him.
    Finally, a stipulation that lots of less than 20 acres or whatever is deemed appropriate may NOT be subdivided, is one way to hold sprawl in check.

  2. Megan Pearson   December 5, 2020 at 9:34 am

    This has zero to do with natural growth or population changes. It has to do with our local government representatives working in tandem with developers to try and attract the Ft Gordon.cyber center employees that will be relocating to the CSRA.

  3. Lee Neal   December 1, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    What just went on at County Council meeting is evidence of what is happening in this County. A long time Planning Commission member, who just 3 weeks ago was voted in as their Chairman, was dismissed and replaced by Todd Brown. Mr. Brown is the developer for Tavern Hill, in which the land was purchased from Mr. Cooper’s family. You talk about letting the fox into the hen house.This County is being controlled by a handful of people. Scott Cooper is their leader. It definitely isn’t being controlled by the citizens, that live and pay taxes, in this County. The representatives are NOT up there for our interest. They are up there for THEIR interests and their FRIENDS interests. Bad thing about this is, that it will continue for the next 2 years. South Carolina has no recall law, so we are stuck with the socialistic government that is happening right in front of us. Mr. Cooper, you are not a local. Your family name is, but you aren’t. Why don’t you do us all a favor and go back to Virginia.

  4. Scott Cooper   December 1, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Population changes over the last 9 years was addressed in my October Townhall, as well as some context surrounding the 2 year Comprehensive Plan / LMO process, which has unfortunately been extended due to COVID-19.

    • Megan Pearson   December 1, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Someone sees an opportunity to make money. This has nothing to do with natural growth or population changes.
      It also has zero to do with an elected official listening to his constituents.
      Quality before quantity. That is what we asked for.

  5. Patricia Lee   November 30, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Looks like Mr. Cooper plans to remove anyone from the Planning Commission that does not agree with his plans to pack as many houses as possible into the Merriwether area and replace them with developers/real estate investors. Citizen input is being ignored in favor of developers. He talks about protecting property rights, but he only means the property rights of developers, not the citizens. Follow the money.
    If the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Management Ordinance worked the way the citizens want, development in this end of the county could be beautiful.

  6. Linda Anderson   November 30, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Mr. Ford also is consulting for the zoning. typo says not.

  7. Megan Pearson   November 30, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Subdivisions do NOT bring in excess tax revenue. They bring a need for infrastructure.
    Take Tavern Hill for example, which is projected to bring in roughly 350K a year in property tax.
    Does that cover the cost for sewer, roads, school, emergency & law enforcement services, etc?
    No, it does not and that amount is not even close.
    However, we are guaranteed more traffic congestion on a road we asked be protected from such and that at one time was, up until recent changes.

  8. Linda Anderson   November 30, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Just one more example that Edgefield County Council and planning staff need an attitude adjustment. They continually rush headlong into going fulls against what the Citizens/taxpayers have stated over and over again they desired during the Comprehensive Planning process. We stated that we wanted quality growth and did not want to become Columbia County or other surrounding communities with high density housing units. June 4, 2020 Chairman Scott Cooper and 2 other County Council changed the wording to that plan to allow for high density/small lots. Over and over Tommy Paradise has stated that we have to smooth the way for developers so they choose our county to develop. Anyone who has attended or watched the Planning Commission meetings see clearly that Edgefield County is headed in the wrong direction. People are being led to believe that zoning is the thing that will limit what takes place. In reality the Comprehensive Plan is the letter of the law. We are clearly seeing that developers make the zoning with the Building and Planning staff and the administration assisting. Developers are being allowed to do things that individuals are not allowed to do. One look at what has been approved and what is on tap to be allowed are not in the best interest of the property owners. Property rights is used to justify the means…..picking and choosing who can do what with their property. When the 3rd reading change took place Councilman Campbell asked Mr. Ford (consultant for the Comprehensive Plan and not Zoning ) “what the impact would be on the plan if council were to accept the proposed change. Mr. Ford said this would be “watering down” the recommendations made by Robert and Company. He explained this removes some of the intent of the information because it starts to change the area size that was used to develop this plan.

    We are seeing the “fruits” of this change. The first high density subdivision began with the Windsor subdivision 445 housing units, continued with the Tavern Hill subdivision (212 housing units) and continues today. Jim Oliver, elected chairman at the November Planning Commission meeting, and other members of that commission are realizing what this language change is having on Edgefield County and the Planning Commission’s ability to make decisions regarding development in the County. All anyone needs to do is view the planning commission meetings that have taken place to see the negative impact it is having on our whole county. It is quite telling that Chairman Scott Cooper is replacing Mr. Oliver with Todd Brown on the Planning Commission. Mr. Brown is on the Economic Development Committee along with Mr. Charles Blackston. They are developers of Tavern Hill. Mr. Brown in one of the council meetings when asked by Mr. Dean Campbell if the language of the Comprehensive Plan had not been changed would they be developing Tavern Hill…..his answer was “no”. Anyone who wants to read the approved minutes from the June 4, 2019 meeting to fully see what took place can go to the web page and read what the impact has been on the home page and under the meeting + events page where the council meeting and planning and commission meetings can be viewed.