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Camden annexes proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant lot

Posted: August 16, 2012 5:47 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Camden City Council expressed its hopes that a Chick-fil-A restaurant will actually be built in Camden with a 4-0, unanimous vote to annex a small piece of property on West DeKalb Street. Tuesday’s vote was the second and final reading necessary of an ordinance authorizing the annexation of a 1.08-acre lot being subdivided from the Seven Oaks Shopping Center, anchored by Kmart.

Mayor Jeffrey Graham recused himself from any discussion and the vote. As Councilman Pat Partin explained ahead of the vote, Graham recused himself due to a “business conflict of interest” as a realtor involved in the transaction.

Partin then went on to express his support of the annexation.

“This is proposed, I believe, for a Chick-fil-A restaurant, which would bring more jobs and hospitality tax revenue in large sums,” Partin said. “This was something Chick-fil-A wanted to do, that Camden is offering things to them that were good for them.”

Councilman Walter Long agreed.

“I hope this is an indication that we are creating a business-friendly atmosphere in Camden and that we are moving in the right direction,” Long said, adding that the restaurant will be able to take advantage of lower, in-town sewer and water rates through annexation.

The lot is being annexed with interim GD (general development) zoning.

Wateree Associates LLC, which owns the lot, brought forward building and other plans for a Chick-fil-A earlier this year to the Camden Planning Commission (CPC). As part of the city’s annexation process, the CPC will consider whether to recommend GD as the lot’s final zoning classification at its next meeting this coming Tuesday. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the matter and then vote on its recommendation. If the CPC votes to recommend final GD zoning, council will could take up another vote at its Aug. 28 meeting.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the full council voted unanimously to pass a resolution authorizing a no more than $312,500 lease purchase agreement of emergency radio equipment for its police, fire and public works departments.

The 3-year agreement is with First Citizens Bank at an interest rate of 1.25 percent. Asst. City Manager Mel Pearson said there is a chance the city will not have to pay the full $312,500. He said the final price for the equipment is still being negotiated.

“It may be significantly lower,” Pearson said.

The city must meet a federal mandate to become interoperable with other jurisdictions by Jan. 1, 2013, a little more than four months away. Pearson said the city originally planned to do so by converting its equipment to very high frequency, or VHF, use. Kershaw County agencies, however, including the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, decided to follow a different route: moving completely to radios that can operate in the 800 MHz band of frequencies. The federal government also mandated that emergency channels meet “narrowband” requirements. Currently, most emergency radios operate on frequencies 25 MHz wide. Come Jan. 1, they must operate at half that bandwidth, 12.5 MHz wide. The radios Camden is purchasing are both 800 MHz compatible and meet narrowbanding requirements.

The total cost of equipment the city is purchasing is $487,600. The city received grants totaling $109,121 from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and S.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS) to pay for a portion of the equipment. Radios for the public works department, at a cost of $65,979, is coming directly out of the city’s utility fund.

Partin and Councilman Willard Polk asked how purchasing the 800 MHz radios compares to upgrading existing equipment to VHF standards. Pearson said the city never got to the point of fully determining that expense.

Partin also lauded work performed by City Grant Writer Sonia Canzater, and not just for acquiring the SLED and DPS grants.

“Last year, our staff writer of grants obtained $2.5 million in grants. I doubt we pay her that much,” Partin said. “What a great idea it was to hire someone who can do that.”

Partin also added that the city has not had to raise property taxes in three years “because this staff and this council continues to do the right thing.”

In other business:

• Council unanimously passed a resolution naming August as Farmers Market Month. Kershaw County Farmers Market representatives accepted the proclamation, presenting council with a large basket of produce and other goods from the market. Partin called the market a “wonderful addition to the community,” since being formed in 2005. Partin thanked State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk of Camden for pushing the idea forward and to council for agreeing to purchase property to help expand the market. Long agreed, noting that a lot of people -- including his wife -- shop there every week. Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford said a farmers market is something that prospective businesses and residents look for in a community like Camden. She also expressed interest in working toward year-round use of the farmers market property.

• Council also unanimously resolved to name September as National Literacy Month. Kershaw County Literacy Association members appeared to accept the proclamation. Drakeford expressed her appreciation to the association for the work it does; Partin said he wanted to go further, noting that members of his family have been teachers. “Students have come back to them, telling them ‘You have made a dramatic impact on my life.’ I feel the need for everyone in this community to get involved,” Partin said. “It is incredible that there are students who reach high school who don’t know how to read. We need kids in first grade reading. We have to … it’s just a passion of mine.”

• Mark Houde, of the Camden Municipal Election Commission, reported that members have certified petition signatures for Mayor Graham, Councilwoman Drakeford, mayoral candidate Tony Scully, and council seat candidates Johnny Deal, Peggy Ogburn and Laurie Parks to be on the ballot Nov. 6.

• Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution authorizing a mutual aid/narcotics enforcement agreement between the Camden and Columbia police departments.

• Council also met in executive session to receive legal advice on pending litigation. Council took no action when it returned to regular business.

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