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North Augusta’s sneak attack on Merriwether aided by County Council

A column by the Editor
web posted October 12, 2009
COLUMN – The encroachment of the City of North Augusta into the Merriwether area is being paved with the blessings of three county council members who do not even live in the community. Two county council members, who are part of the community, have voted against matters that will continue to expand the annexation by backdoor measures. Merriwether residents seem helpless to defend against encroachments from North Augusta and our own county leaders who rule, not represent. As if that is new in Edgefield County politics.

It is an attack; as Merriwether rallied in record numbers in 1999 to defend their property rights, the Edgefield County Council ignored them and took those rights away. It was said then, by County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece and others, that zoning would “protect” the residents of Merriwether from unwanted growth that was taking place on Martintown Road towards the Edgefield County line by North Augusta.

In spite of the overwhelming opposition by residents, county leaders - including Merriwether County Councilman Danny Bishop - voted against the people. Bishop was then voted out of office, but that damage was done.

Fast forward to 2009 and the Haglar Systems owners’ request to rezone their current location on Five Notch Road and Murrah Road into industrial (though surrounded by residential property) and a separate five acres that sits empty and with no plans foreseen in the next decade, into the only available commercial property in Merriwether. Isn’t’ that special?

Mr. Haglar (who does not reside in Edgefield County) did not even know his company was located in Merriwether. He though it was located in “Harrisburg”. There’s a “good neighbor” for you.

North Augusta has already purchased large parcels of land well into Edgefield County and the Merriwether Community along Five Notch Road that is very close to the Haglar property. The surrounding community has made their concerns known to their representative, County Councilwoman Genia Blackwell, opposing the rezoning of the property and she is ignored.

Councilman Rodney Ashcraft, who also represents part of the Merriwether area has also opposed the rezoning yet the veteran majority ignores them both. Edgefield, Johnston, and Bettis Academy will determine what Merriwether should look like, not the people of Merriwether.

The final vote will be held on November 3 at the Edgefield County Council Chambers on Jeter Street in Edgefield.

Meanwhile, with the people distracted with one end of Murrah Road in Merriwether being overrun, the south section is also under attack. The Edgefield Planning Commission was presented with a plan by Jay Lacey and Meybhom Realty for the failed development of Palmetto Point by Lacey several years ago.

This time the same requests for commercial development is made, but the plan also shows “possible” expansion with the purchase of 350 uninhabited acres that just so happens to be for sale and adjoins the city limits of North Augusta. In fact, Meybohm representatives stated the city was more than willing to take the property in through annexation to provide sewer service, making the city limits of North Augusta a reality all the way to Murrah Road.  

That is the dirty secret way North Augusta is taking over. They buy property where no one lives, take it in without a vote, and the very people who oppose it have no way to defend themselves.

There is a defense; it is the Edgefield County Council. Three no votes on the two rezoning requests by Haglar will be a first and vital step. If the Haglar change is approved, there will be no stopping North Augusta. Meybohm and Lacey will demand their request be granted because the precedent has now been set.

If zoning, put in place to protect Merriwether (as Monroe Kneece and Willie Bright said at the time) really is to protect Merriwether, why are they voting against two members of the same county council who represent the area? Council members Rodney Ashcraft and Genia Blackwell defeated the measure once with the help of Norman Dorn. A month later it was brought back up and has been passed on 3-2 votes twice.   

What changed? Who is cowering to special interests and not the will of the people? Who is doing what is “best” for Edgefield County and who is doing what is best for a very select few?

The real question in all of this is simple. Were Monroe Kneece and Willie Bright lying to Merriwether in 1999-2000 or are they lying to the people of Merriwether in 2009?

If they vote “yes” next month they will be on record as being liars in both cases.

The fact is only a “no” vote will give them any credibility on the issue they promoted against the will of the Merriwether community. Will they vote to become liars?


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