Property Rights and “the Pursuit of Happines” Collide

Property Rights and “the Pursuit of Happines” Collide

Construction is underway for Tavern Hill, a subdivision marketed as a “rural preservation community.” The development is off Sweetwater Road on Stephens Road and will have 212 lots of various sizes with an average lot size of 11,725 square-feet. The development will have 40% green space, buffers, and pervious area providing an overall density of .48 acres per lot. 

By Arthur Northrop

This article is the second in a series detailing Edgefield County’s Comprehensive Plan and a petition to change it. The first article appeared in the Wednesday, January 6, 2021 edition and is on-line at edgefieldadvertiser.com. If you have input regarding the series please contact me at arthur@edgefieldadvertiser.com or send your letter to the editor to news@edgefieldadvertiser.com

Megan Pearson is one of several concerned citizens who has followed the development of Edgefield County’s Comprehensive Plan and is leading a petition drive to change it. Pearson contends that high density development is mainly benefiting developers and will hurt the people who already live in the county. 

Tommy Paradise, Edgefield County Administrator, was asked for projections of increases in tax revenue and expenditures like roads, public safety, schools, fire protection, government, infrastructure, etc. due toresidential growth. Paradise responded, “That is not information that we currently have available.”

When Scott Cooper, Edgefield County Council Chairperson was asked if the high density residential develop would increase the tax burden on existing residents, Cooper said he could not predict the future. He did make the case that a significant investment of one industrial company in our county could change the tax impact of high-density residential development.

Pearson believes that high density subdivisions will increase taxes for roads, government, infrastructure, school buildings and operations, fire protection, and public safety for county residents. Pearson makes the case unless the changes are made to the Comprehensive Plan as stated in the petition, residents have no recourse. “There’s no legal way to fight any of the high-density development unless the Comprehensive Plan is changed,” said Pearson. 

Councilperson Dean Campbell along with Arthur Biggs voted against the proposed changes in the Comprehensive Plan’s third reading, but ultimately voted for the plan as amended. “I would like to see the Comprehensive Plan returned to the way it was before the final changes were made,” said Campbell. Campbell thinks that the final changes will not improve our county and may prove over the long-term to be a detriment for citizens. Council members Jackie Kennion and Albert Talbert voted in favor of the changes to the Comprehensive Plan on its third reading.     

Cooper, a Constitutional Conservative and a supporter of property rights explained that while the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrote “peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that the framers actually wanted to include “property” instead. Cooper contends pursuit of happiness is in the Constitution instead of property because the framers of the Constitutionknew they could not change the issue of slavery. 

Cooper thinks work should be done with the objective of promoting what makes Edgefield County special to industry and small businesses as well as new residents who will inevitably come here. “One or two large companies who catch what makes us special, and want to make the investment to bring our rich history into the 21st century, could make the difference for all of us,” stated Cooper. 

Cooper maintains that the Comprehensive Plan and its overlay districts (Overlay Zones according to the MASC (Municipalities Association of South Carolina) protects the rural feel of the county. He said building houses in high density developments will look fine if they are 300 feet from the road and the homes’ garages are not facing the highway. According to MASC an overlay zone imposes a set of requirements or relaxes a set of requirements imposed by the underlying zoning district when there is a special public interest in a particular geographic area that does not coincide with the underlying zone boundaries. Cooper says the end result of the county keeping its rural feel can be reached through the overlay districts (Overlay Zones).

For Cooper, the changes that were made to the Comprehensive Plan boil down to a lot of forces Edgefield County does not control. Cooper contends growth in the region and the demographics of people moving from state to state trigger the need for housing. He likens it to the 1950s when people moved here for SRS. “There was a shortage of housing and people didn’t like it then, but you couldn’t stop the forces of the movement of people,” said Cooper. 

Cooper believes making the changes to the Comprehensive Plan protected the property rights of those who own land and protected the free market which will allow the county to grow. He thinks growth will be positive for the community. 

Cooper explained the changes to the Comprehensive Plan were neededbecause of the limited amount of land that can be developed in the county. He explained that lack of access to sewage systems, the amount of land that will not perk, and the topography (or geography) of the land in the county place limits on where and how much high-density development can take place. 

Cooper shared he moved three times in the Washington, DC area due to encroaching development. He believes the county government should allow the market to control development because America was founded on life, liberty, and property. “Unless you buy the land around you, you can’t control everything that happens,” noted Cooper. 

Cooper views himself as a steward and believes in the highest and best use of land. “Not all land is created equal. I don’t think it is wise to lock everything into large lots. I’m not opposed to people purchasing land so they control it, but as a government official, that’s not my role,” concludedCooper.

Campbell thinks in some areas doubling the number of homes you can place on a small lot allows too much density which can lead to issues for all the county’s residents. “I just think we can do better. I support what the petition is asking for,” shared Campbell. 

Pearson understands the motivation of some land owners to cash in on their land. “I understand people taking money they’ve never seen,” reflected Pearson. She hopes she would make the right decision if the opportunity presented itself to her. She shared she knew a person who was offered a large amount of money to allow a solar farm to be built on his property and the landowner decided not to sell.

“People think growth is good, but not all growth is good. They think these subdivisions are going to bring so many good things to the county,but they are not doing anything but benefiting a developer,” said Pearson.Pearson said anyone wanting more information about the petition can reach her at meganpearson33@yahoo.com or 803.480.9735 or they can contact Linda Anderson at johnnyfanderson@bellsouth.net or 803.480.9735.

8 Responses to "Property Rights and “the Pursuit of Happines” Collide"

  1. Desdemona Pazdalski   February 17, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Edgefield County Council & Planning Commission

    2/13/2021
    124 Courthouse Square
    Edgefield SC 29824
    Dear Council Members and Planning Commission members,
    This letter addresses the concerns of Edgefield county tax paying residents who object to the proposed LMO in its entirety.
    First let me introduce myself: my name is Desdemona Pazdalski and myself and my husband Louis Pazdalski live at [address redacted for privacy], Trenton SC. We moved here almost 2 years ago from WA State.
    I immigrated here from Germany in 1980 partly due to the awesome freedoms granted under the US Constitution. Once I became a US Citizen, I joined the military and ended up serving for 24 years total. I freely sacrificed many rights enjoyed by non-serving citizens in order to protect their God given rights as enumerated in the US Constitution. I fully understood that serving in the Army would mean I was at the whim of the military. But, since I have retired back in 2013, I no longer desire to be told how to live. This means that I and my husband do not desire to have this atrocious and by the way, copied, LMO shoved down our throats. We are responsible adults that realize that the county already has zoning ordinances in place. We do NOT want any other restrictions placed on our lives and property to satisfy the power-hungry politicians and money greedy developers.
    After reading the LMO (376 pages) mostly copied from another county, we realize that this LMO will serve to constrain us from enjoying our private property and if a conflict arises the more restrictive ordinance supersedes. This gives no real recourse to property owners.
    Under the US Constitution, we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The economic concept of private property refers to the rights owners have to the exclusive use and disposal of a physical object.
    The Founding Fathers upheld the economic view of property. They believed that private property ownership, as defined under common law, pre-existed government. The state and federal governments were the mere contractual agents of the people, not sovereign lords over them. All rights, not specifically delegated to the government, remained with the people–including the common-law provisions of private property. Consequently, the constitutional rights regarding free speech, freedom of religion, the right of assembly, and private property rights are all claims that individuals may hold and exercise against the government itself. In brief, private property refers to the rights of owners to use their possessions which are enforceable against all nonowners–even the government.
    The proposed LMO serves only the developers and whomever else has a financial interest in forcing the LMO on the people of Edgefield county.
    When developers get their own zones to rule, the citizens lose.
    We attended the hearing on 11 February 2021 and aside from people being blocked from entering using the year long excuse of COVID, some of your members had the audacity to claim that since not many people showed up there was no real interest or objection to the proposed LMO. How asinine.
    People were not permitted to come in and be heard. Time to speak was cut to 2 minutes by Fab Burt, yet the overpaid consultant from Atlanta was given an hour to say much of nothing and to patronize farmers. Oh, this consultant admitted in a public forum that he in fact defrauded the taxpayers when he took a copy of a similar LMO from a county in Georgia. He did not even have an original thought and charged 180.000 dollars for this. We, the citizens want our money back.
    We also demand that all members of the planning commission who are engaged in real estate development recuse themselves from this commission due to serious conflict of interest. That includes Scott Cooper.
    Folks, we are prepared to take this the next step in order to stop this. I have a God given right to do with my private property whatever I chose to do as can be seen in the US Constitution. You do not get to tell me when I can hang decorative lights, where and how to park an RV, what type of outbuildings I have nor do you get to tell me how many people I can have for a home business. We reject your aesthetic values as they pertain to forced conformity. Edgefield county is a beautiful place, and we want to keep it that way. Cookie cutter conformity may well work in a city, but in a rural setting it is unwanted.
    No matter what Scott Cooper or Kevin Singletary [who refuses to answer emails] claim, this LMO is a county wide HOA and we the taxpayers are forced to pay for it with our taxes. This means that the planning commission and if voted through, the county council, are acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner against the will of the people. Again, let me reiterate we do not want any part of this LMO. Get our tax dollars back from the consultant and let us get back to making Edgefield county great.
    Sincerely,
    Desdemona Pazdalski Louis Pazdalski

    • admin   February 19, 2021 at 8:16 am

      Hello Desdemona and Louis Pazdalski, The Edgefield Advertiser greatly appreciates you sharing your thoughts regarding the Land Management Ordinance. Thank you so much for your support of The Edgefield Advertiser.

  2. Linda Anderson   January 21, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    As this article and the first in the series discusses, citizens in the County are seeking to provide citizens with the opportunity to exercise their voice and their right to reverse the vote made on third reading of the Comprehensive Plan on June 4, 2019 against the wishes of the citizens. Citizens spent 2 years providing input for what we desired for the County Comprehensive Plan. That decision negatively impacted the county by deleting the minimum lot size for subdivisions in the rural areas. That action took away the ability of the Planning Commission to deny High density subdivision, which are not harmonious with their surrounding rural neighbors. Mr. Wilson is correct about the limited ability for communication. For those who would like to educate themselves more fully you can go to the merriwetherconnect.com web page see for yourself in black and white and video what has been taking place and if you agree that citizens should have the opportunity to have their vote count sign the petition. Have questions contact either Megan Pearson or Linda Anderson. Our representatives should represent us not their own desires. There action says to the community our opinions are secondary to what they think is right.

  3. Linda Anderson   January 21, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    As this article and the first in the series discusses citizens in the County are seeking to provide citizens with the opportunity to exercise their voice and their right to reverse the vote made on third reading of the Comprehensive Plan on June 4, 2019 against the wishes of the citizens who spent 2 years providing input to what we desired for the County That decision negatively impacted the county and the took away the the ability of the Planning Commission to deny High density subdivision which are not harmonious with their surrounding rural neighbors. Mr. Wilson is correct about the limited ability for communication. For those who would like to educate themselves more fully you can go to the merriwetherconnect.com web page see for yourself in black and white and video what has been taking place and if you agree that citizens should have the opportunity to have their vote count sign the petition. Have questions contact either Megan Pearson or Linda Anderson. Our representatives should represent us not their own desires.

  4. Megan Pearson   January 17, 2021 at 9:30 am

    When LAW is manipulated to give a certain property owner more consideration than lesser property owners there is a major disconnect between an elected representative and the people he supposedly represents.
    Equal property rights would allow the same consideration/opportunity for ALL property owners.

  5. Linda Anderson   January 17, 2021 at 12:38 am

    Telephone number for lLinda Anderson should read 803-279-4138. I will be happy to meet anyone to answer questions and/or give them a petition . All documents also can be found on our webpage http://www.merriwetherconnect.com

  6. Len Wilson   January 16, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    Isn’t Mr. Cooper personally profiting from the Tavern Hill project?? I think the phrase “A rural preservation community” was created by folks who could possibly think county residents don’t have much sense. Exactly what is being preserved in a rural area by slab homes crammed into a hay field?
    Maybe if Mr. Cooper started building those slab homes directly across from his residence vs the back forty he could be more believable to those in doubt.
    I cannot support any development of any kind in the county until the county manages and maintains what is has now, our roads being a great example. Stephens Road, on which Tavern hill is being built, is a perfect example.

    • Len Wilson   January 21, 2021 at 6:24 pm

      I would like to apologize to Mr. Cooper and reframe my previous comments. After reading my post it did appear to be a personally directed at Mr. Cooper and my apologies for that. I guess I meant to say that we cannot have all the foxes in charge of the henhouse – even if some of the foxes have best intentions. We currently have a chronic issue with our governing structures in the United States where individuals seem to personally profit from their positions versus putting their constituents and communities first. Hopefully our representation here in Edgefield County will not allow that to happen here as it has in DC. Please be mindful of what is best for the many versus the few. Additionally, with Edgefield being a rural county with very little media or access to information you can’t assume everyone always knows whats going on.