Kershaw County Council passed first reading, by title only, of an ordinance that will attempt to address nuisance properties in the county.
Specifically, the ordinance would authorize Kershaw County to abate rubbish, debris, junk and other materials that constitute a common public nuisance and affect the general health and welfare of the citizens of Kershaw County.
The ordinance presented to council during its meeting Tuesday night is very much a work in progress, noted Councilman Al Bozard, who has taken the lead on this issue.
“I borrowed heavily from the city of Camden’s ordinance -- what we finally come up with will probably be different,” Bozard said. “But we need to do something -- some of these properties are just getting out of hand.”
Bozard said since he came on council in January, he has received numerous calls from people in his district complaining about properties in the area that are not kept in presentable shape. The complaints range from unkempt lawns to visible junk, trash and debris, but the effect is the same, Bozard noted.
“It looks bad and it brings down property values,” he said.
One citizen spoke against the ordinance during public comment period, saying he believed individual property owners don’t have an obligation to enhance their neighbors’ property values or otherwise provide “scenery” and that such an ordinance flies in the face of private property ownership and rights of the individual.
Bozard said the intent is not to infringe on the rights of property owners and he agrees council needs to strike a good balance between respecting private property rights and government regulation.
Nonetheless, nuisance properties are a problem and the county does need to have some recourse when individual situations get out of hand, he said.
Councilman Tom Gardner also pointed out that the intent of the ordinance is not to create extra work for an already extremely busy codes enforcement office.
“We don’t want to pass this and then send our codes enforcement officers riding around the county looking for problems,” he said. “We do, however, need some mechanism to address and respond to complaints that come in to us.”
Councilman Ben Connell noted that the language presented in the title-only ordinance seems to make reference to offenses as determined by code officers.
“There are six officers, with six different perspectives,” he said. “Doesn’t that make it a little subjective?”
County Attorney Ken Dubose said he would work with the ordinance and draft something that would be more specific but also pointed out the final ordinance and the language therein would be determined by council.
The ordinance is a civil rather than criminal ordinance, which means violations would ultimately result in fines, not jail time, Dubose noted.
Council Chairman Julian Burns was absent due to a work conflict. Council passed first reading with all six present -- Councilmen Bozard, Connell, Gardner, Dennis Arledge, Jimmy Jones and Council Vice Chair Sammy Tucker Jr. voting in favor of the ordinance.
Other business discussed:
• Council held public hearing and passed third and final reading of an ordinance amending the original solicitation ordinance as it addresses soliciting from passing motorists. The ordinance requires organizations who solicit funds from motorists to obtain a permit from the county and keep it with them at all times. The permit would only be good for one day and organizations could only obtain one permit per year for such events. In addition, no permits will be issued for federal, state or local holidays or Saturdays and Sundays.
• Council heard an update regarding a proposed shell building to be built at Heritage Pointe Industrial Park. According to County Administrator Vic Carpenter, county staff will be recommending awarding a $2.561 million bid to Bobbitt Construction to design and build the structure. The building will be 50,000 square feet, expandable to 100,000 square feet and will be paid for with funds generated through a bond council approved last year.
• Council heard an update regarding usage of county facilities by the public. Carpenter reported he has been working with the various existing policies regarding different county facilities to condense them into one policy that addresses all the county’s facilities.
• At the recommendation of Councilman Jimmy Jones, council appointed William Schwartz to the Airport Commission.
• Council heard a presentation from Mike Briggs, executive director of the Central South Carolina Alliance, a non-profit group that works with Kershaw and other midlands area counties in economic development.
• Council recognized Lt. Tyrell Cato, who recently earned the professional designation of Certified Jail Officer through the American Jail Association.
Kershaw County Council meets at 5:30 p.m. March 28 in the County Government Center, 515 Walnut Street, Camden. Meetings are open to the public.