By Arthur Northrop
I made two mistakes in the November 25, 2020 article headlined, Large 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.