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Is the Town of Merriwether inevitable?
web posted February 20, 2006
OPINION – The time has come for Merriwether to formalize itself as a town. With Merriwether being the fastest growing area of Edgefield County, the community actually has little control over how that growth is directed. Two Merriwether residents sitting on the Edgefield County Planning Commission is not enough to influence growth according to the wishes of local residents in Merriwether, not elsewhere.
Some opponents to the formation of the Town of Merriwether fear doing so would remove the zoning placed on the area by the County Council in 1999. It is true the county zoning ordinances would not be mandatory in the new town; they would be stipulated as the ruling ordinances until the new town could create its own plans and ordinances. The Home Rule Act of 1976 was passed to promote such self-governance.
The very real and unacknowledged danger to Merriwether is the well-kept secret that the City of North Augusta has plans to swallow up most of Merriwether into the city over the next few years. Yes, the City of North Augusta, in Aiken County, has plans to dictate to you, an Edgefield County resident, and tax you accordingly above your current taxes in the county. Those taxes will be collected and directed to the multi-million dollar plans for downtown revitalization. They will use Merriwether as a “cash cow” with little in return.
Granted until 2000 Merriwether had very little in the way of police protection. With a new Sheriff that has changed with two Sheriff’s Sub-stations based in Merriwether. The Merriwether Volunteer Firefighters are among the best in the county. Emergency Medical Services are also based out of the area. All of these services have ties to Edgefield County and Merriwether, not the City of North Augusta.
The realities of the situation are property values in the Merriwether Community are far higher than most areas of the county. Records show that around 60% of all county revenues from property taxes are from the Merriwether community. The creation of the town would mean the reduction of 11 mils in property taxes paid to the county. The town could introduce a millage rate of 20 for the town and it would be equal to as much as five times the revenues of other areas in the county.
More that enough to provide for two contracted Sheriff's Deputies 24 hours a day to the town until a formal police department is established.
In addition the newly formed town would be eligible for state and federal grants that the area otherwise would not be allowed, such as for parks and recreation. Presently Merriwether contributes funds allocated to parks and recreation. In return for their contribution, Merriwether gets not one dollar of parks and recreation funds. This would change with the creation of a town.
The choice that faces Merriwether is; will the City of North Augusta, the County of Edgefield, or the Town of Merriwether direct the future growth of Merriwether. That choice will ultimately be left to the residents of Merriwether to decide.
Planning maps for the City of North Augusta, SC
City of North Augusta Planning Area Map (PDF file)
Future Land Use, City of North Augusta Map (PDF file)
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