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KCC denies rezoning

Posted: December 21, 2017 5:09 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council denied a request to rezone a 126 -- acre property during its December 12 meeting, the last regularly scheduled session for 2017.

The request, which had passed first reading during council’s Nov. 28 meeting, had involved a vacant 126-acre parcel located on Cricket Hill Drive and Cook Road, parallel to U.S. 1 in Lugoff. The property, which is slated to be phase III of the Quail Hollow subdivision, is currently zoned R-15, the lowest density residential zoning designation in the county zoning ordinance. The developer, Eddie Yandle, was requested that the property be rezoned to R-10, which allows for greater density than R-15.

Yandle appeared before council during public comment to address some potential concerns.

First, he noted that, while it is true that R-10 allows more lots per acre than R-15, his purpose for the request was not to increase density but rather to slightly decrease the size of the lots he does wish to develop. The plan for that phase of the development was to have a maximum of 208 lots -- which is less than the 317 lot maximum currently allowed for that size parcel under the present R-15 zoning.

Yandle also noted that the plan called for leaving some 52 acres of that tract as open/green space; under the current zoning ordinance is required to leave only 11 acres as open space.

Councilman Sammy Tucker Jr. stated his support for the rezoning, pointing out that the county planning commission had approved the recommendation to rezone and that no one had expressed opposition during that process. He also said he wanted to see council be consistent in such decisions, noting that council had recently approved two rezoning requests on similarly sized properties.

However, several councilmen expressed concerns. Councilman Tom Gardner said he had received several calls from citizens concerned about the request, particularly about an increase in traffic on Cook Road. Councilman Al Bozard said he had also received a number of calls expressing similar concerns.

“The subdivision isn’t the problem,” he said. “Cook Road is.”

Council Chair Julian Burns said he was not inclined to support the rezoning because of the increased traffic pressure as well as increased pressure on county services and the school district. He noted that, while Kershaw County is pro-growth, the county needs to be mindful of  how and where growth occurs. He pointed to Lexington County, which has experienced major residential growth in a short amount of time, which has necessitated tax increases to keep up with providing services and infrastructure, something he does not wish to do. 

Council voted 1-5 on a motion to approve second reading of the rezoning, with Tucker voting in favor of it and Councilmen Dennis Arledge, Bozard, Burns, Gardner and Jones voting against it. Councilman Ben Connell was absent .

Other business:

• Council heard a brief presentation from Laurey Carpenter, executive director of the PLAY (a Place of Learning for Active Youth) Foundation. Carpenter reported that the foundation is planning to submit an application to the National Civic League for Kershaw County to be designated an All-American City. 

According to the NCL’s website, the award, recognizes the work of communities across the U.S. in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders. Only 10 All American City awards are presented each year. Only 11 cities and counties in South Carolina have been named All American Cities since 1951.

The application will be submitted by Feb. 28. Once reviewed, the PLAY Foundation will be informed on April 1 as to whether Kershaw County is selected as a finalist; only 20 applications nationwide will be selected as finalists.

If Kershaw County is selected, then the group will travel to Denver, Colo. the week of June 17-20 to make a detailed presentation to the selection committee. Award winners will be announced June 21, Carpenter said.

Carpenter asked for council’s support in the effort, noting that the foundation is not asking for monetary assistance, but rather stated enthusiasm and support.

“Right now we are just asking for your prayers,” she said. 

However, in keeping with positive attitude and faith in the endeavor, Carpenter said she expected to return on or around April 1 with the news that Kershaw County is a finalist. At that point, the group will be able to outline what it needs to continue the process.

Council did express its support and enthusiasm for the project.

• During council briefings, Councilman Jimmy Jones gave his assessment on council’s performance for 2017.

 “Since this council has voted to cancel our meeting on Dec. 26, this is the last meeting of the year,” Jones said. “I am sure, therefore, that there will be those who put out a list of all the great things that we have accomplished this year. Well, I have a list too. But it’s probably not going to be the same list.”

To begin 2017, we started by trying to backstab our friends at the school district, city of Camden and town of Elgin by quietly attempting to steal away from them critical SROs and crossing guards. These are people we had been paying for years. In fact, the administrator had included them in his balanced budget. Yet, we waited until the last second, and then tried to quietly remove them from our budget -- just so we could give pay raises to employees.” 

Jones said he had proposed a viable alternative, but this was ignored. He also noted that the positions were later reinstated to the budget“

Then, we passed a huge tax increase that was completely unnecessary,” he continued. “This Council approved a 5.1 mil tax increase that could have been paid for by either cutting other spending or smart use of reserves. The critical EMS service would still have been paid for and it wouldn’t have hurt or impacted anyone had we done it the way I proposed. Everyone knows that I’m 100 percent in support of providing EMS services. It’s just too bad that county council insists on raising taxes to do so when there are other alternatives available.”

Jones then went on to sharply criticize the county’s re-assessment process, an event he said had a devastating effect on small businesses. Not only were the notices difficult to read and understand, but when tax notices were sent out, it was too late for the property owners to appeal, he said. 

After the reassessment, council bought property on the Wateree River for recreation needs, although most of that property lies in a flood plain, Jones said. 

Finally, a committee formed to study SRO funding has turned into justification to raise the millage of the school district, he said.

“If this was a good year, then I’m terrified when I hear that next year will be a great one,” he said.

While no one responded to Jones’ comments during the meeting, Council Chair Julian Burns did respond later.

“(You) asked if I wished to respond, and the answer is, ‘no, not really,’ to what is at best an unaccountable departure from fact in the public record,” Burns said. “Rather, dialogue, civility and transparency are hallmarks of county deliberations. It’s better to take stock for the New Year moving forward -- and to celebrate our savior’s birth when our county is so blessed: 500 new jobs and improved wage scales, vast improvements in green space in Lugoff/Elgin, a pay raise for the hard working employees, a new CCTC for our kids, medical care for the underserved, EMS, solid waste, capital fund, economic development, and a new ATEC supported by more than 70 percent in a referendum. Let’s welcome the New Year with continued commitment.”

Kershaw County Council will not meet December 26, but will meet in regular session at 5:30 p.m. January 9 in the County Government Center, 515 Walnut St., Camden.

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