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Camden's comprehensive plan about to be updated

Posted: February 4, 2014 5:38 p.m.
Updated: February 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

A week from now, the city of Camden should be on its way to completing a required five-year update of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The plan, adopted in 2007, works as the city’s master planning document and originally contained seven elements: population, economic development, natural resources, cultural resources, community facilities, housing and land use. Just as the city adopted the plan, the General Assembly amended the legislation governing the plan’s requirements. Those amendments included additional components to the housing element and required local governments to add transportation and priority investment elements.

Camden Planner Shawn Putnam presented Camden City Council with a proposed set up of updates to the plan at council’s Jan. 28 work session. Putnam said the city received advice in 2007 not to add in the new elements to the plan at that time. Instead, consultants suggested the city wait until its five-year update of the plan, begun in 2012.

“In addition to updating elements, we worked on identifying demographic trends and projections; reviewed goals, objectives and strategies; and determined which (goals) should come out because they were completed or irrelevant,” Putnam said, who went through each element.

He started off by noting that the 2010 Census showed Camden experienced a 2.3 percent population increase from the 2000 Census a decade earlier.

“That was the first increase in population since 1970, so that was a good trend for us,” Putnam said. “The current estimate is just under 7,100. We estimate the population will be 7,143 in 2018.”

An interesting trend Putnam noted is that Camden’s over-65 population actually decreased between 2000 and 2010 by 1.7 percent. According to a chart in the plan updates, the population of Camden residents between 40 and 64 years of age increased from 2,078 in 2000 to 2,362 in 2010.

Putnam also said that Camden has seen significant improvements in term of education.

“The percentage of population without a high school diploma dropped from 20.5 percent to 13 percent. Those with at least some college education … increased from 55 percent to 64 percent,” he said.

He also revealed that the city’s per capita income was $26,385 as of 2011 Census data, the latest available. Putnam said that is higher than the county or state per capita rate.

“The poverty rate in Camden is lower than the county or the state, but the rate of poverty for Hispanics and African Americans remains significantly higher than the poverty rate of whites,” he said.

Within the housing element, Putnam said the recession significantly slowed growth in housing.

“We are still seeing building permits issued for existing developments,” Putnam said. “Based on that, housing starts are expected to grow 8 percent between now and 2018 as we continue building out existing developments.”

However, more than half of the city’s housing stock was built before 1960.

“I think anybody who is aware of the historic nature of Camden would not be surprised by that,” Putnam said.

He said mortgage and rental rates are higher than in the state or county. Home price averages in the city are now at $149,000 versus $112,000 in the county, he said. Furthermore, according to Putnam, 8.1 percent of all Camden homeowners and 16.2 percent of all renters in the city are “cost burdened,” meaning they are spending more than half their household income on housing costs.

“So, that indicates that we have some work to do as far as making housing more affordable in the city,” Putnam said.

Mayor Tony Scully asked how to make housing more affordable.

“One of the things we can do is make it easier for providing incentives to developers to build affordable housing and one way we have done that is we amended the zoning ordinance to provide density bonuses for developers that include affordable housing,” Putnam replied.

All housing goals carried over from the old plan with one new: “Encourage a broad range of housing opportunities to meet the current and future needs of city residents.”

Putnam then turned to the new transportation element, made up of components that were originally in the community facilities element. Putnam reported that there are 264.5 miles worth of roads in the city, only 72 of which the city actually owns. Just under 3 miles of those roads are unpaved, he said.

The transportation element also listed 2011 traffic counts, with a section of DeKalb Street showing the highest volume of traffic, followed by a section of I-20 within the city limits, and then Broad Street.

“I was really surprised that I-20 didn’t have the highest traffic count; that was a big surprise to me,” Putnam said.

Specifically, a segment of DeKalb Street at Springdale Drive averages 28,000 cars per day versus only 27,000 on the section of I-20 inside Camden’s city limits.

Also covered here were community patterns.

“Based on the number of people commuting into Camden, the daytime population of Camden increases by 52.8 percent because of all the people commuting into the city for work,” Putnam said. “Less than 1 percent of the population rides a bike to work, and only 1.2 percent walks to work.”

Other parts of the element speak to the proposed truck route, Broad Street “road diet” and the city’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy. With the new element come two new, overarching goals:

• Plan the location and development of transportation infrastructure to accommodate present and future needs.

• Provide a safe, efficient and accessible multi-modal transportation system (to include providing accessible walkways and bicycle paths to encourage alternative travel by both residents and visitors).

Putnam said one part of these goals is to see if it can obtain C-funds from the county. C-funds are derived from the state gasoline tax and are distributed to each county. As required by state law, the county has a country transportation committee to oversee those funds. Putnam said the first consulting on the CLUP update was surprised to learn that the city receives no share of the county’s C-funds.

“Every other county that they have worked in, every city in that county receives C-funds. That’s something we need to take a look at,” he said.

Both Putnam and Pearson said they were not aware of any city representation on the county transportation committee but would have to check.

“It goes without saying, if we don’t have representation on that committee, we need to get some given the fact that we get no benefit from it,” Polk said.

In the other new element, priority investment, Putnam said coordination is the piece the element really focuses on. The idea, he said, is to coordinate with all adjacent jurisdictions ranging from those within Kershaw County, adjacent counties, and state, regional and federal authorities. The element also lists anticipated funding sources as well as projects the city and the coordinating agencies might work on. A list of planned capital facilities projects through 2017 includes upgrades to Camden City Hall, the fire and police departments and various utilities services.

Putnam said the Camden Planning Commission is recommending that council enact the plan updates. Next steps include a public hearing at council’s Feb. 11 meeting, followed by first and second readings of an ordinance enacting the updates.

Putnam also reported that the planning commission has given a “nod” toward updating five sections of the city’s zoning ordinance, Chapter 157 of the city code. There are 13 sections.

“One of the sections is called design standards and what we attempted to do is adopt design standards primarily for non-residential uses,” Putnam said. “It would apply to entire zoning districts instead of the way we currently do it which is to apply it to just two overlay districts. After a lot of work and discussion it was determined that was not going to work for Camden so we are going back and just updating these design standards for the overlay districts and looking at where we need to expand those districts.”

Also during the Jan. 28 work session, Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther reported on efforts to market the Ross Beard Collection at the Camden Archives and Museum using S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism grants. So far, the city has been able to leverage a $10,000 grant with a one-to-one city match to generate $20,000 worth of advertisements. Those advertisements include six billboards across the state; print ads in AAA Go and Southern Living magazines; and banner ads on newspaper websites all timed to coincide with the upcoming Carolina Cup.

In the second part of his presentation, Luther said that depending on how the city applies for further grant funding, it could be counted as a “destination” and, therefore, be eligible for up to $45,000 in grants. With a one-to-one match, that could mean a marketing budget of $90,000 that would not only promote the Beard Collection, but the Archives’ rotating exhibits and resource as a genealogical research facility.

Archives Director Katherine Richardson also spoke to council at its Jan. 28 work session to discuss the recently opened “Robert Mills’ South Carolina” exhibit. The exhibit is made up of two components, Richardson said, including one focusing on the Mills Atlas of South Carolina.

“If you’re not a historian, you may not realize how absolutely monumental it was to the state of South Carolina and the country,” she said. “We were the first state that had a state atlas of every district. They began working on that in 1821 … it was a huge undertaking.”

Richardson said the atlas marked every town, every tavern, every plantation and every church in each district.

“It was so very useful and continued to (be) so more than 100 years later. We have every edition except the first edition and will be in the exhibit because you can see the difference in the way they’re bound. It covers every kind of minutiae of every district in the 1820s,” she said.

The second part of the exhibit focuses on his work here in Camden. Richardson said Mills did much more work in Camden than he has been given credit. She described how he would refer to his own work as “handsome.”

“And when he got to Camden, it just went on for pages and pages,” she said. “The people of Camden did not like the way the courthouse was arranged or appointed and they remodeled it to look like what we know now, but it will always be Robert Mills’ Courthouse.”

Richardson said that according to some writings, it would appear Mills may have designed the city’s clock tower, but that it cannot be proven.

During council’s regular meeting, members voted unanimously to:

• proclaim February as Black History Month, with Price House Commission Chair Polly Lampshire accepting the proclamation;

• pass second and final reading of an ordinance designating a property on Broad Street as a Local Historic Landmark;

• pass second and final reading of an ordinance reestablishing a franchise agreement with TruVista;

• pass first reading of an ordinance that will amend and restate the city’s master bond ordinance;

• pass first reading of an ordinance that will refinance the “lion’s share” of what is left of a 2004 bond series by issuing new bonds of up to $10 million that should save the city approximately $1.24 million in interest during the next 10 years;

• pass first reading of an ordinance that amends an agreement with the S.C. State Revolving Fund so that the city no longer needs to maintain a debt service reserve fund tied to money the city borrowed to construct its new wastewater treatment plant; and

• authorize Scully to employ Michael D. Wright as the city’s permanent city prosecutor.

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