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Edgefield County, South Carolina

March 2, 2005

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Is Zoning right for Sweetwater?

web posted March 2, 2005
Editorial Staff

The Edgefield County Planning Commission is proposing expanding zoning in Edgefield County by bringing the restrictions from Merriwether up Sweetwater Road to Republican Road just past Mount Vintage.

Planning commission chairman Fab Burt had the proposal mailed to all those who would be affected along with a letter inviting them to attend a “work session” on March 10, at 6:30 pm, so residents can offer their input. We think this is an excellent way to go about county planning. Residents and land owners should have the final say on how they see the future use of their property when the plans are formed.

However, the question has to be asked, why was this proposal taken under consideration?

It turns out, according to sources in the process; County Administrator Wayne Adams initiated the proposal. In fact, the original plan was far more reaching and was rejected outright. The original plan would have encompassed all lands between Martintown Road in Merriwether across to Highway 25 almost to Trenton. One planning commission member thinks the entire county should be zoned.

That is a rather large plan that affected a large portion of properties. At least we know the final goal of the stripped down version of the plan now being offered up.

No doubt the main thrust of the proposal will be framed in the appeasement period. Most assuredly they will offer to take your individual conditions and requests into account. They will offer to remove the items you object to, as long as they are allowed to zone. That is the idea. They are willing to take less of your property rights for the time being as long as you agree to allow them to have full control over all your property rights. Things change and so it is with the restrictions they first impose. In time they will become more restrictive and your chance to counter that will be long passed.

That time is now.

After the appeasement phase of debate the tactic of fear will be invoked. In Merriwether they used poker halls and “pig farms” (as if anyone would buy property in Merriwether, the most sought after property in the county, for a “pig farm”); today it will be drag strips and “chicken farms”. We just don’t buy that.

Quite simply, the planning commission needs to go over the proposal word for word from the information packet they sent and ask the people if they want it, up or down. No need in the bargaining of property rights. A simple yes or no will suffice. Otherwise the power of government does not lie within the people but those appointed, not elected. That is just plain wrong.

The Planning Commission and Zoning Administrator, Howard Gibson, say they have learned from the lessons of those before them. We hope that is true.

We know they are actively seeking to keep Administrator Wayne Adams “out of the picture” and that is wise. However, it is also deceptive to hide the instigator and what political connections for a motive might be behind such a proposal.

Why was this taken up for consideration in the first place? Does it have anything to do with Mount Vintage, a golf club and residential area by developer Bettis Rainsford, or perhaps his next submission in development down the road?

Opinion of those along Sweetwater Road sure says so.

Having the ability to zone the developments of Mr. Rainsford would increase the value and the inclination of investments in his projects. Granted, the initial zoning would include only 1000 feet from either side of the center of the right of way of his properties in the proposal, but that can be changed with the stroke of a pen. We remember too that the initial proposal did include all of his developments in the area.

Coincidence? We sure hope so.

However, the fact remains there is one major benefactor if this plan goes through and that is Bettis Rainsford. In reality this proposal would allow Mr. Rainsford to do exactly what he wants on the property he owns, or buys (building houses and golf courses), and stopping you from doing anything on your property that would interfere with his plans.

Coincidence again? We sure hope so.

As the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. If the residents of the area are against this it should be dropped then and there. No concessions, no haggling, no bargaining, simply dropped. If it is not it will be obvious there is a concerted effort to subvert the will of the property owners. It will be then the all too familiar names of Bettis Rainsford and Wayne Adams and the close personal and political connections between them will become a stench the present planning commission and council will not be able to wash off.

For now we are taking them at their word. Cautiously we hope they indeed have learned their lesson.

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