April 14, 2021
By Arthur Northrop
This article provides Ken Durham’s perspectives as a small town mayor and a private citizen on the moratorium on large residential developmentsin Edgefield County passed on first reading by the Edgefield County Council at its March 3, 2021 meeting.
“My position is I am against the moratorium,” said Ken Durham, the Town of Edgefield’s Mayor. Durham has served as Edgefield’s mayor for fourteen years and before that he served on the Town Council. In addition, he sat on the Economic Development Committee for years and did some time on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Durham explained that in each of the roles he has served, the conversation has been the same; growth is coming. He said the growth has been discussed by the Mayors, County Council members past and present, Water and Sewer Authority, and the school district along with many others involved as long as he can remember.
Durham noted that now that the growth is here, the County Council is saying “We can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. We’re not ready for this growth. We need to put a stop to it till we can figure it out,” said Durham.
Durham stated the pieces and parts of the County’s LMO (Land Management Ordinance) is a separate issue from the moratorium. He said someone gave him a bumper sticker that reads, Keep Edgefield Rural, at the market a few weeks ago and he put it on his car. “That does not mean I am against the LMO, but I do think it needs to be modified a lot,” said Durham. He thinks the LMO is way too restrictive.
He said as the LMO is now written, he does not think it is a good fit for the County. He does however think the county needs some types of zoning and restrictions.
Durham’s issue with the moratorium boils down the impact it will have on the momentum of growth happening now. He said he has heard the arguments that the people moving into the new subdivisions fourteen miles down the road will do their shopping in North Augusta and Aiken. “The day I start letting myself believe that or even say that is, the day I will resign, because 10% of those people coming to Edgefield means a lot. If we have no growth, 10% of zero is zero,” emphasized Durham.
Durham said he and other leaders in Edgefield have worked hard to create a village atmosphere in the Town of Edgefield that is different from Aiken or North Augusta. Durham made the point people are wrong when they say the moratorium won’t impact the Towns.
He said when people are investing their life savings to buy a store in any of the Towns; they are looking at what is happening in the surrounding area, not just the Town limits. “If it looks dead, they are not going to invest,” stated Durham. He feels strongly if the County is growing, people are more likely to invest in the downtown areas.
Durham share that people do not realize how hard it is for small communities all over America to grow and move forward. “It’s not something that happens overnight. It takes years. It takes a lot of pieces of puzzle to come together,” said Durham. He thinks there is a good possibility the County Council stopping development means the Town Edgefield won’t see growth during his term or even in his lifetime. “It’s like throwing cold water on the momentum we worked all these years to have,” said Durham.
Durham also has an issue with what many people are saying on social media. He said he is in discussions with someone who is considering investing in the Town. The Mayor said the potential investor called him recently and asked him what in the world is going on? He said the posts on Facebook are sending a bad message to people outside County.
Durham praised the original group that brought the issues of the Comprehensive Plan and the LMO to the public’s attention. Durham saidthey did what they were supposed to do as citizens by overseeing what government is doing. “They called their hand and the council has agreed we need to modify the LMO,” noted Durham. He did stress people need to stop posting until the changes are made. “We’re hurting ourselves with everything you read on Facebook being negative,” said Durham.
The Mayor is frustrated with some of the decision makers reversing course. Durham thinks slowing down or having a moratorium gives the impression a county is not competent to grow responsibly. “I don’t understand why we have to stop till we get ready,” said Durham.
Durham said between the readings required for the moratorium and a possible three month extension, development could be stopped for a better part of a year. Durham thinks if the Comprehensive Plan is not fixed by then, development will resume and the issues the County is facing now will be no different. Durham said if the County wasn’t ready for development, he guesses he should have pointed it out. “We need rooftops in driving distance from Edgefield. That’s case for any small town. We’vedone well trying to keep it [Town] alive,” concluded Durham