Feb. 24. 2021
The Edgefield Advertiser recently interviewed Ricky Miller and Jeff Hughes, both with strong and long ties to Edgefield County. The conversations with Hughes and Miller reveal the subtleties and nuances of the differences in opinion of where Edgefield County has been, where it is now, and its future. Neither of the interviewees claim to be experts in the details of the County’s Comprehensive Plan or its Land Management Ordinance.
Jeff Hughes believes a person has the right to sell his property for higher or better values and if that means someone wants to put a subdivision on the property, they should have the right to sell the property for that purpose. Hughes said he recently drove through the Cooperfield development on Highway 25.
“I would much rather see a Cooperfield subdivision than some of the places that are just horrible looking that nobody does anything about,” said Hughes. He thinks the new subdivisions would have HOAs (Home Owner Associations) that would keep the neighborhoods nice, neat, and tidy looking. He added that when you look at some of the properties in the county owned by slum lords, there is no comparison of those houses to the new subdivisions.
Ricky Miller said he knows a lot of people who want the county to stay like it is and he would too. “That’s not going to happen. The county is growing and you can’t stop growth, but it can be controlled,” said Miller. Miller noted in his opinion, the growth doesn’t need to be controlled to the extent the Land Management Ordinance (LMO) is written now.
One of the issues Miller has with the LMO is the proposed overlays. Overlays are areas on both sides of roads that provide specific regulations on what can and cannot be done by landowners. He explained that the proposed 500 feet setbacks could have an impact on timber management. He said that when growing timber at some point trees have to be harvested for forest management purposes. Miller also said he did not agree with the proposed mandatory rules regarding landscaping and building designs in those areas.
Hughes made the case that high density subdivisions lowered the cost of new homes to first time buyers. Hughes said the part he likes is a person who lives in a mobile home, or with their parents, or they are renting, now have access to affordable starter homes. “They have a piece of the pie in America with water and sewage, and a paved driveway. They have upgraded in their own town and that is the part I like,” noted Hughes. Hughes said having developments at a price point people can afford means he can see his own kids being able to purchase a house one day if they wanted.
Miller has developed a few properties in Edgefield County. “I’ve developed some land too, and I’m not against any more land being sold,” said Miller. Miller said he does not like the “track” [High Density] homes because of their impact on population density. Most of Miller’s development activities have been four to five acre lots with a few around two acres and none under an acre.
Miller would like to see bigger lots but thinks there should be a minimum of one acre. Miller’s opposition to small lots is because he does not think the county is ready with its infrastructure. “I’m not sure what they are going to do with all these kids in the next couple of years,” said Miller. He also noted there would be big increases in traffic on the County’s two-lane roads.
Hughes made the case that he like most others will pay for schools long after their kids have graduated. “I’m not going to move out of Edgefield County because I don’t want to pay for other people’s kids to go to school; that doesn’t make any since,” stated Hughes.
Both Hughes and Miller recognize that the people in the Merriwether area are, to a large part, not contributing to the tax revenue Edgefield County needs. “Most people on the Merriwether end of the county don’t know where Edgefield is,” chucked Miller. He said they may come to Edgefield to pay their taxes. Hughes acknowledged that the lack of a commercial base in the county has a negative impact on needed revenues.
Hughes said Edgefield County is a bedroom community. He believes due to poor visionaries in the county, there is only one grocery store. “Just look at the number of Dollar Generals in Edgefield; we can do better than that,” observed Hughes. Hughes reflected back to when the Federal prison came to Edgefield and noted the majority of those folks could not find housing in the county. He views that situation as a lost opportunity. Miller noted more houses would not solve any of Edgefield County’s problems.
Miller said the LMO was like adjusting the thermostat. “If some people say it’s too hot and some say it’s too cold, you probably have it right,” observed Miller. Miller noted it is a complex situation. He said he noticed a sign in a yard recently that said no zoning. He said the sign was the same person’s yard who had written a letter objecting to a high-density subdivision going in near his property.
Miller said he doesn’t think the process for people expressing their concerns at public meetings will work because there are just too many different ideas. Miller thinks the LMO is one extreme and maybe people can meet in the middle. “It’s not going to be where everybody is going to be happy, I’m sure of that. It might be that both sides are unhappy,” concluded Miller.