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City council continues looking at economic development

Also, Starbucks takes out permit for new restaurant

Posted: July 27, 2017 6:21 p.m.
Updated: July 28, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/C-I

Members of Camden City Council recently attended two conferences that, they said, focused primarily on economic development in small cities.

During an approximately 20-minute meeting Tuesday night, council members Jeffrey Graham, Deborah Davis and Joanna Craig talked briefly about topics discussed at the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s (MASC) annual meeting in Hilton Head. The meeting took place July 20-23. In addition, Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford said she attended the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Small Cities Council Meeting July 19-22 in Ocoee, Fla., a city of more than 41,000 people. The NLC Small Cities program is for cities of 50,000 or fewer in population.

“When you go to these workshops and hear about things we’re already doing through our staff, that makes me proud,” Graham said about the Hilton Head meeting. “When it comes to economic development, we will be in the right spot at the right time. Our staff is doing things that have been successful in other cities.”

Craig said she was pleased to see that Camden was an “advanced” small town based on what she saw at the MASC meeting.

Drakeford said one of the places she and other small city mayors visited while in Florida was the city of Winter Garden, a community of about 42,000 people immediately west of Ocoee. Both are part of the greater Orlando area. According to the meeting’s three-day agenda prior to the event, an entire afternoon was devoted to economic development.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful downtown. They have down a lot of the things we are wanting to do,” Drakeford said. “Walkable downtown; they have a farmers market downtown; they have built a garage downtown to accommodate all the folk that come. As a matter of fact, they said that each Saturday, they have about 5,000 to 6,000 people downtown. They also have a really nice splash pad that I took some pictures of.”

Drakeford concluded her report with the announcement that Camden will be the host site for the Small Cities meeting in 2019. She said it will likely bring about 30 mayors and council members to Camden. City Manager Mel Pearson noted that the new Hampton Inn should be built by then.

“It’s reassuring to hear two members who attended the annual meeting last week comment about economic development and some of the things that we’re doing. The flip side of that is that for me to sit here and listen to those things is it reminds me of how much we’ve got to do,” Pearson said, drawing a round of laughter from council, “and how much we’ve got going on. There’s no end to it with the kind of council we’ve got to move our city forward. There’s just always going to be something to do.”

Drakeford also said she visited newly opened Firehouse Subs and Kay Jewelers at Springdale Plaza and that managers at both stores were very complimentary about their welcome to Camden. She said the Firehouse Subs store manager has moved to Camden and the franchise manager was thinking of moving here as well.

Drakeford also said that Starbucks is coming to Camden, likely this fall. Pearson confirmed the news, saying City Building Official John Burns recently received interior building plans from Starbucks.

“He’s reviewing them now,” Pearson said.

Council only took action on two items Tuesday night, unanimously passing second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the purchase of 905 Market St., which may be transformed into a parking area adjacent to, but not strictly for, the future home of the Kershaw County Farmers Market.

Council also unanimously passed first reading of an ordinance that will, on second and final reading, authorize the purchase of 705 Fair St., a small, square-shaped lot the city hopes to combine with an adjacent lot at the corner of King and Fair streets held by the Santee-Lynches Development Corporation.

Pearson said by creating a rectangular lot, it could be subdivided into two equal rectangular lots that a developer could build homes on. Pearson said the Santee-Lynches lot was acquired as part of the city’s participation in the Neighborhood Initiative Program. He said there is an adjacent lot facing King Street the city traded with a developer for one next to the Civil War Powder Magazine. Pearson said the King Street lot will also be subdivided into two lots.

“Eventually, there will be four lots on that corner. One as a result of purchase you made through the tax sale foreclosure process … and one that will be subdivided as a result of the Neighborhood Initiative Program, and the acquisition of this small portion you’re approving tonight,” Pearson said.

Pearson also reported that the Main Street SC’s latest report -- which he handed out to council -- has been completed.

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