April 28, 2021
By Arthur Northrop
Note to readers: This article was written from watching the Planning Commission’s April 14, 2021 recorded meeting on posted YouTube.
The Edgefield County Planning Commission voted unanimously to discard the County’s existing LMO (Land Management Ordinance) and create a new one. In a prepared statement, Todd Brown, Commission member, said the Commission had heard County residents’ questions and concerns. “The LMO is the wrong course for Edgefield County,” stated Brown.
The motion offered by Brown was: “This proposed LMO be formally removed for consideration by the Planning Commission and that our collective efforts of the Planning Commission, County Council, and citizens alike focus on creating and developing a plan that rightly addresses the uniqueness of Edgefield County’s heritage, resources and rural landscape.
The motion is now headed to the Edgefield County Council for consideration at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Several members of the Planning Commission spoke in favor of the motion during the discussion and shared their thoughts and feelings on the issue.
Bret McNeill, Vice-Chairperson, said the County needed a better path forward. “We need to take a step back; no time limit,” said McNeill. McNeill and Joel Pressley noted that the meetings scheduled for citizen input were like kitchen table discussions that will allow the County to come up with solutions on how to address growth. “We all know we have a problem but we’ve been at odds on how to fix it,” reflected McNeill.
Several of the Commission members made the point there were parts of the current LMO that could be used when developing the new one. Several Commission members noted the section on signage and definitions did not need to be reworked.
There was also agreement in looking at other counties similar to Edgefield to study how they addressed the same needs and concerns County residents have. Fab Burt, Planning Commission Chairperson, made the point that there have been some basic misunderstandings throughout the process of developing the LMO.
Burt, like other members of the Commission think the small group – kitchen table discussions will play an important role in developing a LMO that addresses the concerns of the County residents. Rodney Ashcroft made the point the small group meetings should be used to address the misconceptions many residents have at this point. (The structure of the small group district meetings is detailed in the April 21, 2021 issue of The Edgefield Advertiser.)
Pressley stressed that once the new LMO is created, it should provide a vision of what should happen and then focus on how to make that happen in the simplest way possible. He also noted that the LMO should be a living document that addresses new challenges and issues the County will face in the future. McNeill said the new LMO will start with public input first instead of public input last and Brown noted those discussions should impact the ordinances the County ends up with.
In other business, during the first Public Comment portion of the meeting, the Planning Commission heard eight concerned citizens speak in opposition to the Southern Felt Company expanding its facilities off Rainbow Falls Road. Southern Felt requested that some property be rezoned from Rural Residential to Industrial.
The concerns voiced by those who spoke ranged from problems with increased traffic, noise and smells, and the impact of the expansion on wildlife. Many of those who spoke noted they were multigenerational residents near the property in question.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend to County Council to deny the rezoning due to incompatibility. If the motion reaches the second reading at County Council there will be a public hearing.
Another item considered by the Commission was a proposed development (Hollow Oak) that would be located in both Aiken and Edgefield Counties. The developer proposed placing a well and a septic tank on each of the thirty-nine-half acre lots in the Edgefield County portion of the proposed development. A similar number of lots would be in the same development on the Aiken side.
Six concern residents spoke in opposition to the project citing concerns about traffic growth, road maintenance, fire coverage, and the lack of hydrologic engineering studies to create baseline data. They also expressed concerns over environmental and wildlife impacts along there being no cost/benefit analysis for the development.
Commission members stated they were concerned about the large number of wells and septic tanks in a small area. McNeill and others stated they wanted to hear what Aiken County thought of the project since a portion of it is in that county.
The Commission recommended if the developer is planning on building in Edgefield County, he needs to be thinking about the residents who will be buying the homes in the long term. The Commission made several suggestions including community wells, larger lots, and to look at the impact of the development on residents and surrounding community.
The developer agreed to extend the approval date of the project in order to gather additional information for the Commission’s next meeting. The Commission stated that if the vote was taken during the meeting that night, the application would be denied.
Three people spoke during the Public Comments section of the meeting regarding Heritage Place. They were opposed to the planned entrance to the Planned Development coming from Williams Road. The speakers noted there were numerous elderly people who lived in the area and voiced concerns about light pollution and the developments impact on wildlife. There were also concerns regarding the planned location of the development’s retention pond.
The Commission suggested the developer of the Planned Development create an emergency entrance off Williams Road and move the main entrance to Highway 25. The Commission also negotiated with the developer regarding the size of trees that would be planted as buffers. The motion to approve passed on the condition the developer address the Commission’s concerns. The County Council will consider the Planned Development at its next meeting.
The final item on the agenda was the role the Planning Commission will play in the District small group meetings designed to obtain input regarding the development of the County’s LMO. Minor changes in wording were made regarding the goals of those meetings and it passed unanimously.