Protecting a way of life!
Connecting People : Empowering Voices
Working together to make Merriwether the best place to live, work, and play
Knowledge Is Power - Purpose - Share Information One With Another
He who has the knowledge has the power to control what happens in this County and to our quality of life. The purpose of this site is to share information and work together to help share our County. We seek to unify our community to protect our quality of life for ourselves and generations to come.
WHO KNEW: Edgefield County has 5 Council Districts with one representative in each district. The members elect the Chairman and Vice Chairman each January. In 2019 Scott Cooper was elected Chair and Albert Talbert was elected Vice Chair. They were again elected in 2020.
THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN PROCESS:
In 2018 Edgefield County hired Robert Ford and Company to prepare a new comprehensive plan the previous one had been done in 2015 - by law it is required to be redone every 10 years so it would have been done in 2025. At his initial presentation for the plan, Mr. Ford stated that Edgefield County should focus on what makes us unique.
As stated in the comprehensive plan: The County also should strive to preserve the quality of life enjoyed by Edgefield County citizens, workers, and visitors as growth and development occurs.
Citizens attended and participated in year long meetings working on this plan. Throughout the process the citizens expressed their desire and support for planning which allowed for growth that was in harmony with the low density rural area. The Planning Commission recommended to County Council the completed plan which had support of the citizens. The County Council held two readings with the 2nd reading being a public hearing. At the 3rd reading of this ordinance June 4, 2019 County Council Meeting, amendments were controversially adopted by a 3 - 2 vote. Read for yourself the meeting minutes here. This action changed the Edgefield County Comprehensive Plan allowing high density, residential development throughout Edgefield County. Lot sizes were removed from the traditional residential subdivisions and densities were removed from the zoning map. These were the removed densities:
Estate Residential minimum lot size was 1 house on 5 acres
Suburban Residential minimum lot size was 1/2 acre to 2 or 3 acre.
This change smoothed the way for developers to introduce higher density housing units with as little as a 10 acre parcel. Apparently it is even less acreage, the latest being 7.79 acres being applied for a subdivision.
Citizens were unaware what this change meant to their quality of life until January 2020 as these processes began. Windsor subdivision with 445 townhomes was approved next came Tavern Hill with 212. Thus ushering in the first high density subdivisions in Edgefield County.
The importance and the impact this change is having on the county citizens is clearly seen in Many of the approved developments (the Planning Commission meetings as well as the County Council meetings can be found on the Meetings + Events page here Here are three such Planning Commission meetings: there are many others:
June 11, 2020 beginning discussion with developer at marker 41: minutes. here
September 10, 2020 - beginning discussion with developers and then at the 1:08 :35 - lawyer here
October 8, 2020 - impact on surrounding property owners - here
Apart from the Planning commissioners (who rely heavily on the Planning staff) here is the list of those who have expert knowledge of Planning. The planning process itself tends to lean heavily with the developers rather than the citizens: The expert list:
Hart Clark: Director. Building and Planning Department
Kevin Singletary: Full Time Planner
Tommy Paradise: Edgefield County Administrator (experience with Aiken Planning)
Andrew Marine: Edgefield County Attorney( experience with Aiken Planning Committee)
Will Williams: President & CEO - Economic Development Partnership
DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL PROCESS: You only see the tiny yellow signs when development requires a public hearing.
ZONING & Massive Growth - The Process
The Vision is more rooftops : Smooth the way for Development. Less citizen input
Building and Planning Department Approval: They are not required to be announced to the public.
Minor subdivisions: Subdivisions of 10 lots or less that do not create a new street.
Exempt subdivisions: Any subdivision where all lots are 5 acres or more that do not create a new street.
Residential and accessory buildings: These are handled through the permitting and inspection process.
Subdivisions such as Coronet have to be presented to the Planning Commission and hold a public hearing. Citizen notification is through publishing in the local paper and placing a small sign near the property.
Subdivisions like Windsor (445 townhomes) and Tavern Hill (212) townhomes are Planned Development (PUD & PD). Prior to the June 4, 2019 Comprehensive Plan language change the typical subdivision in Edgefield County mimimum lot size was .50 acre per house. See News to Know for full details of the change.
Planned Development Process - How it works:
Developer applies and presents subdivision plans to Building and Planning
Planning Commission reviews and if approved recommends to Council
County Council holds 3 readings and if approved developer moves forward
Can be applied for anywhere in the County
High Density due to lot size being removed from Comprehensive Plan & zoning map.
Current zoning ordinance will be deleted and a complete new zoning ordinance will be put in place when finalized.- High Density is here and more is on the way. The Vision: more rooftops.
Edgefield County and the Merriwether area are exploding with unplanned growth. After a year of research, planning, citizen involvement, and public hearings Edgefield County’s Comprehensive Plan, a road map for planning the future of Edgefield County was amended on its 3rd and final reading to allow for higher density housing units against what the consultant recommended and citizens wanted. The Plan was approved by a 3 to 2 County Council vote. Read the Plan here. Find the minutes and the full details to this meeting on the News to Know page under this section: Comprehensive Plan & Land Management Ordinance (zoning) High Density Subdivisions History - The change - minutes
MORE DETAILS: RESUME ZONING PLANNING IN JANUARY 2021:
A Land Management Ordinance will establish how areas will look, what is allowed, and what is not allowed (residential areas, businesses, farms, etc.). Also of importance is what the process will be for approving anything submitted to Building and Planning. What will staff approve, what will need to be submitted to the Planning Committee, and what will need to have three readings and a public hearing for approval? Look at current ordinances here. Chapter 24, Land Management (zoning), has been reviewed by the LMO Steering Committee and recommended to the Plannning Committee. should be reviewed prior to the Public Meetings: here. There remains one more meeting then to Council.
LMO has been suspended until January 2021. The Planning Commission and the consultant are choosing where they believe various zones should be located and what should be allowed and disallowed in each section. Currently there are 9 zoning categories and when the draft is completed there will likely be as many as 15 (this has been stated to offer more flexibility to developers. All the documents mentioned can be found on the Home page, News to Know page, and Meetings + Events.
The Edgefield County Comprehensive Plan identifies the Merriwether District as a prime location to focus growth. Stating: Fortunately for the county, the Merriwether area and the southern end of the US-25 (Edgefield Road) corridor generally have less productive agricultural lands. Therefore, less important agricultural lands are likely to be lost on a large scale to industrial or residential growth in the next five years.
Growth is not coming, it is here! This is the reason for the Petition
It is not just happening in Merriwether, it is happening all across Edgefield county - fast and furiously land is being cleared and dense housing units are on the rise!
Merriwether and most of Edgefield County represents for many a refuge from the hectic areas surrounding us. Time and again citizens have declared "we do not want to be Columbia County nor NA with all the fast paced growth." Yet here we are. Leaders' visions are growth for revenue while citizens understand that what people are saying comes from watching what has happened in other areas, and that rather than improving the lives of those citizens, those changes have had detrimental effects on the high quality lifestyle everyone seeks. We understand if you wait long enough that evidence will show itself. Listen to what one Columbia County Planning Chair has to say here.....EC we are hurling head long into the same situation, one we have tried to avoid. Edgefield County is a unique place to live, work, and play and that is what we should be highlighting. That is what people discover and come daily to enjoy, just as we do. This massive, high density, and fast growing progress has negative impacts on infrastructure, schools, roads, police, fire and EMS services. Listen to what this Chair (above link) has to say about when this was zoned and what he recommends you do before you purchase property....visit the Planning commission, check with the police and with the schools for future plans....and what good does that do when those things can all change with zoning requests. Also not shown in the abbreviated news was this is a PUD development much like Windsor. When you are not paying attention this is what happens. The last phase of planning - zoning ordinances are scheduled to resume Jan. 2021.
How Am I Affected?
As surrounding areas and neighboring communities become densely populated and overcrowded, developers are focusing on large land parcels for new housing developments. Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) offer the highest profitability therefore they seek the highest density. Plans for more of these higher density developments are under consideration. Planned developments consist of a mix of larger lots, smaller lots, town homes and possible commercial within the community. They will both contain greenspace and HOA facilities. Schools affected in these subdivisions will be Merriwether Elementary, Merriwether Middle, Fox Creek, and Strom Thurmond.
There are other subdivisions which have been approved with more to come as Edgefield County experiences urban sprawl, as stated by our leaders. Currently land owners, developers, planning commission and our representatives are determining what our County looks like. Yes added rooftops add to the tax base but they also add to the cost of services...there needs to be a balance. More rooftops may encourage big box stores yet those impact our small business unique quality of the community.
Traffic is drastically increasing on roads ill equipped to handle such loads. Traffic will only get worse in areas concentrated with multiple housing developments and new businesses. Adding to the leaders' vision is a desire for a rail trail that has already been described as providing a safe and easy way to get to North Augusta. Is that what we want to again drive revenue to North Augusta rather than into our County?
More housing means more families, which increases the number of students in already overcrowded schools. The school bond passed November 2018 which we will pay for 25 years haven't will likely not not cover these exploding educational needs.
The rural life that we so love, the reason many moved to Edgefield County and the reason that family members with deep roots choose to remain here, is rapidly changing. Without input from taxpayers for planned and controlled change, our community will soon morph into another overloaded, densely populated suburb that feeds the surrounding economy. Our quiet, relaxing community will be non-existent. This is not limited to the Southern end of the county, the danger exists in all parts of the county as the Comprehensive Plan has opened the door to high density growth which no one wants in this rural setting. Without the incentives being provided for developers, growth is coming daily just not in the fast uncontrolled manner which profiteers desire.
Choose to be Unique:
Anyone can live in high density housing, towns and cities, those surround us. Those who choose Edgefield County are seeking something different, something unique. Let's work together to preserve this rural, small town/community feel for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and those who seek to become a part of this place we call home.
I Am Only One Person, What Can I Do?
Attend meetings and read the information posted to tell you what is happening. It is not the goal of the County to inform citizens it is the goal to smooth the way and encourage development. By the time you see the little yellow sign that reads "public hearing" believe this it is already too late to make it change. Just ask those who have already experienced it.
Stay Informed! - Information is posted on this website, on the County Website (you can go to their page and sign up for updates), and on Facebook pages (see Important Links for lots of starting points). Share information! Attend Meetings! Volunteer and donate for community events! Speak up, or wake up one day to bulldozers at your back door. Help design and shape the future of Edgefield County. Speak up, for silence is considered approval.
Do you know who your County Council Representative is? Contact your county representative! Contact all county council representatives and let your voice be heard! Do you know the various committees that meet and make decisions for citizens of Edgefield County? Do you know how you are affected by those decisions? The best way to know what is going on is to be informed and not wait until decisions are made that affect you personally.
Use our Contact form to let us know your contact information and your area of interest. Your information will never be shared, sold, or published. Confidentiality is held in high regard and will always be respected.
Stand up For what you want, unite with others and give voice to preserving what you value. If you have a vested interest in maintaining our valued quality of life, in connecting with your neighbors for the good of the community or just want to have some good ol’ fun, contact us let's share and work together to make our County the best it can be for all. Get involved and let everyone know your desires. Designing the community we love, preserving it for future generations. Sign the petition.
People choose here because it is unique and set apart from the surrounding cookie cutter clutter. Citizens let's design our own community not the developers!
Together we can make a difference. Together we have more influence. Together we have a better chance of positively affecting the future of the rural community we call home!