Improving our Comprehensive Plan

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

Citizens desire that we protect our rural character as we position ourselves to embrace an impending wave of development. County officials also invoke the rural charm of Edgefield County in a bid to attract businesses and residents. Despite this, our roadmap for future development, the Comprehensive Plan, does not sufficiently promote a strategy to protect the beautiful landscape so valued by citizens and local government. 

Within the Comprehensive Plan, as written, efforts to “preserve our rural character” are mostly limited to 500 feet to each side of several main arteries. This is a good start, but aspires to preserve only a narrow façade of charm and landscape. Where is our commitment to maintaining our rural quality other than these arteries?

The main page of the Edgefield County website proclaims “It Feels Different Here Because it is Different Here.” Why doesn’t our Comprehensive Plan declare that protecting and nurturingthis selling point is foremost as we bring new opportunity into our county?

No one is asking that the Comprehensive Plan be “thrown out.” But there are also those who say it isn’t even necessary to amendthe Comprehensive Plan to add bold statements committing us to saving what makes us special. Those same entities claim zoning or the LMO can address that. Yet the law requires that zoning complement what is already in the Comprehensive Plan. If it is not in the Comprehensive Plan, then there is no explicit roadmap to follow and officials are on the honor system to write zoning that reflects citizens’ wishes.

And here is the first consequence: because we did not verbalizeexplicitly that protecting our rural character was a priority, we did not purchase an LMO designed to reach our goal of cultural and regional preservation. Instead, we contracted for an off-the-shelf LMO suitable for any anonymous suburb. Some speak disparagingly of the appearance of other counties and yet we are destined, by our Comprehensive Plan and proposed LMO, to become like those places

The act of adding fresh wording to the Comprehensive Plan would symbolize a step toward preserving more than just a façade of ruralness. It would display our commitment to more than just marketing slogans and a cursory nod to citizens’ wishes.

After we prioritize preservation of our county’s charm and then tool our zoning to support that, we will attract developers, businesses, and future residents who also aspire to that goal. They will be drawn to an amazing place with a unique vision and be glad that we took pains to preserve it. As we contemplate this LMO, a more-developed vision statement in the Comprehensive Plan would help guide us to successful zoningthat preserves our rural character.

Without this, Edgefield County is nothing more than real estaterich with economic opportunity but without a sense of future community. In a few years, our website would need to change its message to read, “Welcome to Edgefield County. We’re Like Everywhere Else.”

Diane Peterson