Sumter County Council's July 10 meeting

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Sumter County Council Tuesday evening discussed salvage yards, cemeteries and feather flags.

City-County Planning Director George McGregor spoke to council members about a requested ordinance amendment sought by Carolina Truck & Trailer Parts at 350 Myrtle Beach Highway, which seeks to add the additional use of used motor vehicle parts on a 9.5 acre portion of property.

He said the business has a lot of outdoor storage as an auto parts business. Planning staff and the Planning Commission recommended approval, he said. Council Chairman James T. McCain Jr. asked about the setback and McGregor said it was several hundred yards and a wooded area.

Councilman Artie Baker asked if the site is a salvage yard and McGregor said as defined by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, it was not defined as such. Baker said they bring in 18-wheelers, dismantle them and sell the parts, which looks like a salvage yard. Baker asked about the property being zoned as Heavy Industrial and McGregor said he would look into that.

Councilman Eugene Baten said he has property close to the site and discussion ensued about notice letters sent to adjacent property owners. McGregor said letters from staff of the Planning Department indicate a public hearing is slated for July 24th.

First reading passed.

McGregor then spoke about a request to rezone 1.9 acres of a 4.85 acre tract at 3425 Thomas Sumter Highway from General Commercial to Residential-9. Conditional use was approved to establish a church and cemetery, he said, but there are no plans to build a church. The land is within the Military Protection District, he said. County Council could consider a rezoning or an amendment of the Zoning Ordinance, he said.

Baker said he’s gotten phone calls about the issue and noted during the historic flooding a few years ago that area was under about 12 feet of water. He asked about the involvement of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control with the process and McGregor said there is a process. Baker said he’s also concerned with wetlands behind the property.

Councilman Chris Sumpter asked about how much land lies on the floodplain and McGregor said about half. Baker said he can name at least three cemeteries that have been left in the woods without any upkeep or maintenance as he wondered who would take care of the cemetery 100 years from now.

Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney said she was apprehensive about flooding and its effects on cemeteries. She said she wanted to vote favorably but the location doesn’t seem ideal based on flooding in the past.

Sumpter noted the cost difference for burial in rural areas and for indigent church members vs burial in more populated areas.

First reading passed with the stipulation that DHEC would be contacted by staff of the Planning Department.

McGregor next addressed second reading of a request of an ordinance amendment to allow feather flags. They’re typically 12 feet tall, he said, and about three feet wide. Following up on a question posed at a prior meeting by Councilman Charles Edens, McGregor said there’s no real good guidance about whether or not these flags or signs create car wrecks.

McCain asked about how many days the flags could be permitted and McGregor said if authorized as a temporary use, it would be three 30-day periods. Baker wondered if Richland County allows the flags as he’s seen a proliferation on Garners Ferry Road. Discussion ensued about dilapidated flags that still fly and Sumpter asked if the stipulations were codified. McGregor said staff of the Planning Department tries to be consistent in enforcement.

Baten questioned where the authority lies in enforcing sign ordinances and McGregor said it is the job of the Zoning Administrator. His office issues permits, he said, noting the nine-member Planning Commission voted 3-2 against the proposed amendment.

Baker noted businesses in the county are spaced further apart and he doesn’t want to tell a business they can’t use something that might help them.

During the public hearing portion, Sumter Chamber President Chris Hardy read a letter from the Chamber’s Board of Directors opposing feather flags. Nelle Tomlinson of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina’s Sumter and Clarendon chapter asked about whether the proposed ordinance amendment would apply to commercial or residentially zoned areas. She asked they be permitted.

Vice Chairman Jimmy Byrd made a motion that second reading was approved with a sliding scale and Baker seconded, as the need to consult the County Attorney was mentioned.

Second reading passed 5-1, with Baten voting in opposition.

Sumter County Voter Registration and Elections Director Pat Jefferson spoke to council members about the help she received during the June 12 primary. She was short staffed, she said, and was heartened to receive help from Sumter County Assistant Administrator Lorraine Dennis and Human Resources Director Keysa Rogers. Clerk to Court Mary Blanding also helped, Jefferson said.

“I’m here to say thank you,” Jefferson said.

During the run-off election on June 26, she also received notice a few days before the election the South Sumter Gym wouldn’t be available as a polling place and the County Assessor’s office immediately provided a map to find another suitable location. South Sumter Resource Center Director Leroy Blanding offered to help and make the center available, she said.

“Everybody pitched in and helped and we are so very grateful,” she said. “Living in Sumter County there are some real outstanding people who have genuine love and concern for their community.”

Santee-Lynches Regional Council’s Workforce Development Chief Areatha Clark spoke to council about what she does.

The COG thinks about job seekers, she said, while also developing partnerships with employers looking for a qualified workforce. Helping to grow the incomes of those who grow up here is key, she said.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) also helps the COG train the workforce. Upgrading technical and soft skills are important aspects to training the workforce, she said, while also reaching students at an early age.

“It’s about breaking barriers and impacting the lives of the citizens we serve,” she said.

Chris McKinney, executive director of the COG, noted the importance of STEM learning to bring science, technology, engineering and manufacturing to elementary schools.

Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon spoke to council about third reading of an ordinance to approve a revised contract with Lee County regarding the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center. There were no changes since second reading, he said, and third reading passed.

Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney abstained from the vote.

Mixon also updated council about how a section of Clara Louise Kellogg Drive in Dillon Park is now under the auspice of Sumter County and is no longer part of the S.C. D.O.T.’s road system. A current “Penny for Progress” project involving the transformation of Dillon Park into a football complex required a short section of road to be closed, he said.


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