FEBRUARY 10, 2021
This is the fourth in a series of articles regarding Edgefield County’s Comprehensive Plan. Senator Massey provided his perspective as an Edgefield County resident. Edgefield County’s Comprehensive Plan was changed on its third reading by County Council members Cooper, Talbert and Kennion. Council members Cooper, Dean and Ireland have shared their perspectives in the previous articles. Council members Albert Talbert and Jackie Kennion have been contacted to share their views. At the time of printing they have not responded to requests for interviews.
Senator Shane Massey has signed the petition to change the County’s Comprehensive Plan to how it read before it was changed on its third reading in 2019 by Council members Cooper, Talbert, and Kennion “I try hard not to jump into the county government sandbox,” said Massey.
The Senator noted that there were very capable and talented people on the county level. He shared that sometimes he is contacted in his role as Senator to offer advice and or assistance. “I’m a county resident too, and I think where we grow and how we grow are very important decisions that require input from everybody and should be made after due deliberation without sudden changes,” said Massey.
Massey said he understands why people who were paying attention and were involved in this process were unhappy with the way the Comprehensive Plan turned out. He said when the lot size was changed there would be a result and he suspects that most of the residents of Edgefield County are not going to want massive subdivisions popping up everywhere.
Massey said the support of the petition drive is due in part to their dislike of how the Comprehensive Plan turned out, but in addition, they also did not like the process. “The petition is a result of a number of people thinking the process was not fair,” noted Massey.
Massey said the petition’s supporters are frustrated because they were paying attention and were participating by showing up for the meetings. He said they went through the process and it looked like the county was headed in a good direction with the Comprehensive Plan. Those who had participated in the process were mostly satisfied. “And then you get to the very last day and there is a significant change made with no warning that a significant change was coming,” said Massey.
Massey said he understands Scott Cooper’s perspective on high density development. “He (Cooper) has a reasonable logical position philosophically. I’m not sure I disagree with his take on the market and allowing them property rights, but I think the county government also has an obligation to preserve what a majority of its citizens prefer,” explained Massey.
Massey said when you talk about zoning people are going to be understandably nervous. He maintains you have got to let people participate and you have got to listen to what they say and then you need to act on their input. “If you are an elected leader and you think it ought to be different, well you have to try to persuade people,” said Massey.
Massey feels most Edgefield County residents are comfortable with growth over time. “I’m glad to live in a place that people want to come to versus one where they are want to leave. I would rather live in that environment,” said Massey.
The Senator noted that people choose to live in Edgefield County and he thinks there is a real interest in preserving much of the county’s beauty and charm. “People don’t want Edgefield to become Columbia County and they don’t want Edgefield County to have the type of massive residential development you see in Charleston and Berkley Counties,” said Massey.
Massey explained that the development that is underway will bring young and middle-aged families that will require more schools and other county services that the property taxes will not cover. Massey stressed that now is the time to decide who we want to be as a county. He said that’s going to require everybody having a seat at that table. He conceded that is a hard process, but he believes it’s the only way to get it right.
Massey shared that a few years ago grant funds were available to do a study to determine the cost and possibility of extending water to the North and West sides of the county. He said the North side of the county has a history with water quality and pressure issues. He explained no-one on the North side of the county said no to the prospect of water coming in. He said he got some pushback from some people on the West side who said if you run water down Martintown Road, it would be like the field of dreams with large numbers of homes built and people moving to the area.
Massey said he thinks there are a lot of people who like having more land and being a little bit removed from all the madness and Merriwether in large part is a bedroom community. “I’m glad the people are there. There’s some wonderful people in Meriwether, some have been there for a long time, and some who moved recently and they contribute,” reflected Massey.
Massey concluded by saying for Edgefield County’s size it has held its own on the industrial aspects which is really what the county wants. He said we all would like to do better and have more job opportunities for people close by and for the tax revenue industry provides. His concern is when you have a large residential development without a strong commercial base there are concerns there is going to be increased demands for services that are going to cost a lot more than that growth is going to contribute.