South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Town of South Congaree took a positive step forward in their effort to prepare a comprehensive plan Thursday evening. A comprehensive plan is an important tool for setting and reaching goals for the town’s future development in a positive way. South Congaree town leaders have known for some time they needed an up-to-date plan. Thursday, town business leaders were invited to join elected leaders at the town hall to listen to them about how current and future ordinances will fit into that plan.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Danny Jones said that the meeting was mostly about cleaning up the town and enforcing its existing ordinances. He said that the day had come when it was time for everyone to clean up and begin taking more pride in their town. Jones had requested a Midlands based real-estate expert evaluate various South Congaree residential properties. The realtor would do this when helping any property owner set a price if listing their home for sale. That expert looked at comparable homes in neighboring Springdale and Pine Ridge. Jones said that expert found that comparable homes in Springdale and Pine Ridge would be worth 30% more than if they were located in South Congaree.
Jones accepted the fact that the town had just as much blame for the way it looked as the business and property owners. They had let issues slide for years and hadn’t enforced many ordinances on the books regarding appearance and safety issues. He said that the time had come to start cleaning up, and everyone would have to work together to make that happen. That drew some applause from the audience.
After Jone’s opening statement, the council just sat and listened as business owners voiced their concerns. Jay Galluzzo, the director of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, took notes about their concerns. He made a list of these question and that can be found by clicking HERE. The town plans to research each item on the list and provide intelligent, informed answers at another time.
Most of the questions asked were well thought out and had genuine merit. The first person to take the podium had the specific town code she was addressing in hand. It had to do with the age of mobile homes in the town. Current codes put an age limit of 10-years-old if a mobile home is in use. As an owner of mobile homes, she wondered if older ones could be refurbished instead of being replaced. That same issue came up again later when Larry Jackson, a former mayor of the town, came to the podium. He informed the council of what he considered the intent of the 10-year ordinance. Mayor Jones asked him if he could form his comments into a question because Thursday’s meeting was for hearing concerns and not debating the intent of an ordinance.
Eileen, the owner of the Barber & Style shop on Main Street asked who would decide what type of businesses could locate in the town. She also suggested that every business owner who wanted copies of the ordinances be provided those. The ordinance book is rather large in whole and would be costly to duplicate. Ordinances are currently on the town’s website or anyone can go to the town hall and see those without cost.
Several business owners were worried they weren’t being reissued business licenses because they were in non-compliance with ordinances. They hadn't received their renewal notices yet. Mayor Jones explained that simply wasn’t true, and business license renewal notices were ready to be mailed. The town simply had been making some changes to those notices that had caused the delay. This was just an example of poor communications, something the town is working on.
One suggestion from the meeting was that there be some form of business owner’s board of advisers developed. Many of the business people strongly agreed and people like Lewis Shealy, the owner of Shealy's PDQ, said he would be willing to join and do anything he could to help. This would give business owners a voice even if they live outside the town, something many said they’d like.
Eventually, as the meeting closed, Galluzzo had compiled a list of about 25 questions or concerns for the town. They were very diverse. There were those regarding the mobile home parks, and some were as simple as when and who would trim the trees along Main Street. Now, the town will need to do their part and get to work developing answers and solutions for those items one-by-one.
After the meeting was over, Mayor Jones said that he thought the meeting had been a positive one between the council and the town. “This is a step in the right direction to unite the town around a proactive approach to developing a comprehensive plan for South Congaree.”
Once all question and comments are researched and answers are developed, the town will have another meeting to let people know how they will proceed with the enforcement of the existing ordinances. Some new ordinances may be suggested. Other issues may simply require someone rolling up their sleeves and jumping in to help make South Congaree be a better place.