With a series of unanimous votes Tuesday (minus Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr., who was absent), Kershaw County Council made shipping containers legal in every zoning district in the county. The votes came in the middle of a more than three-hour meeting and after 10 people spoke during public forum, mostly about shipping containers.
Councilman David Snodgrass came up with the solution, bringing forward yet another amendment to the controversial ordinance passed on first reading at council’s Jan. 22 meeting.
That earlier version of the ordinance amendment would have added shipping containers to the county’s accessory structures regulation, and would have added a section detailing how shipping containers would have to be maintained.
On Feb. 12, councilmen Tucker and Jimmy Jones successfully amended the amendment to remove any reference to shipping containers whatsoever from the ordinance. Following a Feb. 26 public hearing on the matter, staff realized there were still problems, however.
Snodgrass said this led him to work with other councilmen and County Planning and Zoning Director Michael Conley to come up with what he believed was a better solution. What Snodgrass’ amendment does is specifically define what a shipping container is, modified the definition of accessory buildings to include shipping containers, removed -- as Jones and Tucker’s amendment had done -- a prohibition on shipping containers in any zoning district, added a condition whereby detached accessory buildings (including shipping containers) may be located in rear yards as close as 3 feet from a site or rear property line, and initially included the phrase “except for shipping containers” in a subparagraph concerning accessory structures without principle buildings.
Councilman Ben Connell said he was concerned that phrase would keep residents from placing a shipping container by itself, alone, on a lot. Snodgrass said that was not his intent and actually encouraged Connell to amend his amendment to strike that phrase. Connell did so -- with Snodgrass seconding him -- and the motion passed unanimously.
Jones then motioned that any reference to shipping containers be struck from the amendment. No one seconded his motion.
Although defeated, Jones praised Snodgrass for meeting with him earlier in the day about his proposal.
“Shipping containers are illegal in Kershaw County right now, anywhere, anyhow, maybe except on a construction site,” Jones said prior to the final votes. “Mr. Snodgrass’ amendment allows something that is not allowed currently. Mr. Sondgrass’ proposed (amendment) allows shipping containers as accessory structures. The proposed ordinance, I think … is in the right direction. My preference is, certainly ... the ordinance, as passed on second reading, that allows shipping containers without any regulation. I’ve said all along that shipping containers should be allowed as storage units, and I have said all along that they could be enforced under the current laws we already have on the books, which is what Mr. Snodgrass has done. It is better than what we have now, because we have nothing; you can’t have a shipping container.”
Jones went on to say that he was concerned when he looked in the agenda packet for Tuesday night and saw three different versions of the ordinance -- the original from Jan. 22, his and Tucker’s amended version from Feb. 12, and the new version offered by Snodgrass.
“Mr. Snodgrass, I appreciate your reaching out to me. I appreciate the leadership that you showed. I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken a pretty tough situation -- I think our process has been discombobulated. I think our process has been horrible, it’s been confusing, it’s been misleading, it’s been stressful … on a lot of folks who have shipping containers already, and I think what you did -- I commend you. I’m going to support you tonight and I’m going to tell you this, too: You have successfully done what nobody has done -- you’ve got, maybe, seven votes -- you will have done what no one has been able to do on this council with a major issue, which is this,” Jones said.
Connell said he felt as though Snodgrass’ version of the ordinance essentially amounted to deregulation, similar to how council dealt with the county’s sign ordinance several years ago.
“This is actually an increase on the spectrum of rights giving folks a little more freedom to use their property the way they want to,” Connell said.
Council Chairman Julian Burns explained it was Councilman Al Bozard who found problems with certain ordinances that led to the original amendment being introduced in the first place.
“It was brought in here with the help of the planning and zoning board. They found it to be difficult because there were competing regulations and one of them was very restrictive, and one of them that was restrictive was shipping containers,” Burns said. “We heard it, chapter and verse, as we probably should, from citizens who felt this was encroachment. The problem was the encroachment existed for years until Mr. Bozard found it, and the planning and zoning people turned it around. The first product was OK, but flawed, and we heard from the people again.
“We did another run with Mr. Jones and Mr. Tucker… and we passed it on the second reading, (but) we found we had some further problems, and that turned into taskings to the staff to go find these inconsistencies between accessories and offsets, and all this fancy language. We had our public hearing on the thing, and we heard again from the people of the county. It seems to me, messy, but democracy in progress, I think. Staff was working steady, we were working hard, and the people in the county were heard from. And then we get in here, tonight, and we think we have a rational approach. In every case, it lessens the restrictions and opens up the way for the people in the county to have better control over their property.”
Council then unanimously passed Snodgrass’ amendment and followed with a unanimous vote on the amended ordinance itself.
During his report to council, County Administrator Vic Carpenter announced that the county’s option agreement with members of the Conder family to purchase the Central South Carolina MegaSite in Lugoff has been extended for five years. The extended option speaks specifically to all or portions of five parcels making up a total of 1,340 acres.
According to a copy of the agreement on the Kershaw County Registrar of Deeds website, the option runs through March 12, 2024. If the county exercises its option during the first two years of the agreement (before March 12, 2021), the county agrees to purchase the entire MegaSite for $21,000 per acre, or approximately $28.14 million. If the county waits to exercise its option until after that date, during the last three years of the agreement, the price per acre would increase to $22,000, or $29.48 million.
The extended agreement also notes that the county will facilitate engineering and other studies as well as any necessary permits in order to facilitate the marketing of the property “for an industrial project.” During its Feb. 26 meeting, council voted to have Carpenter negotiate the option extension and, “upon receipt of a signed option extension,” work with Alliance Consulting Engineers to perform that work for a sum not to exceed $1.13 million, $800,000 of which would come from the county. The remaining $330,000 will come from Duke Energy, Fairfield Electric Cooperative and the state of South Carolina. The studies and permitting will be for a 100-acre portion of the site on the north end of the property near U.S. 1.
This is the first time any official document has included acknowledgement that the county and any partners would conduct improvements on any portion of the property in return for obtaining or extending an option agreement with the Conder family.
• Council unanimously approved a request from Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan to commit to allocating a total of $56,000 during the next three to five years to match a pair of grants that would pay for an additional drug investigator and school resource officer (SRO). The Judge Assistance Grants, which require only a 10 percent match from local governments, will total approximately $500,000 during that three- to five-year period to pay for the two positions, including vehicles, equipment and benefits. Boan said the drug investigator is needed due to, in part, a nearly seven-and-a-half-fold jump in opioid overdose deaths from five in 2017 to 37 in 2018. The SRO would be assigned to the new Woolard Technology Center (the replacement for the Applied Technology Education Campus), the only high or middle school in the county that does not have its own officer. Both grants are annual in nature, with the programs lasting for three years each. Boan said the one for the drug investigator may be renewed for an additional two years for a total of five years.
• Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site Executive Director Halie Brazier provided her annual update on activities at the site, including the recent renovation of its Southeastern Redoubt. Brazier said the Camden Battlefield site on Flat Rock Road continues to undergo long leaf pine reforestation, with plans for more trails and interpretive signage as well as the proposed installation of a pavilion with restrooms at the battlefield. In addition, she mentioned the proposed Camden-Kershaw County Visitors Center to be built next door to the main site, as well as some important anniversaries: 2020 will mark the site’s 50th anniversary as well as the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Camden, while 2021 will celebrate the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
• Council unanimously re-awarded a bid for drainage improvements at the Kershaw County Airport from Lindler’s Construction of Newberry to Anson Contractors of Polkton, N.C. Carpenter explained that, due to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s delayed return of approving the bids during 2018, Lindler’s Construction asked that their bid be increased from $1.69 million to $1.83 million for additional engineering and an extended deadline. Carpenter said that no longer made their bid the lowest. Council approved awarding the bid to Anson Contractors for $1.73 million.
• At Carpenter’s request, council agreed to remove the consideration of a $268,800 sewer line bid by Site Concepts Inc. of Green Cove Springs, Fla. Carpenter said after further reviewing the bid, staff had some concerns regarding how Site Concepts priced the materials they would use to install a sewer line at Heritage Pointe. He said staff would likely bring the bid back for council’s consideration at its next meeting.
• Gene Hartis, a member the Kershaw County Clean Community Commission, provided an update on the commission’s activities, including an upcoming county-wide litter pickup effort set for March 23, the purchase and installation of several lake landing signs urging boaters and others to dispose of trash properly and the installation of three billboards urging all residents to keep the county litter free.
• S.C. Association of Counties Risk Manager Van Henson presented the 2018 Outstanding Safety Award to Kershaw County Risk Manager Barry Catoe and his staff for their efforts, including creating a newsletter focusing on safety issues and recognizing deserving staff as “County All-Stars.”
• Council unanimously awarded a $40,624 bid to Signature Systems Group LLC of Flower Mound, Texas, for 336 panels of SportPanel portable fencing.
• Council unanimously appointed Ron Din, of east Camden, to the Kershaw County Airport Commission.
• Council unanimously passed a proclamation recognizing Food for the Soul on its 10th anniversary.
Council also entered executive session for what County Attorney Ken DuBose called “contractual matters.” The first, DuBose said had to do with “threatened litigation… as to employment,” and the other a “contract dispute with a public (DuBose later added, ‘elected’) official that involves potential liability economically to Kershaw County.”