Yemassee annexes DOT-owned land near the Lin Wood plantation
For at least the second time this year, the city of Yemassee quickly voted to annex part of the unincorporated land in Beaufort County to the city limits. during a special meeting.
A local environmental group is calling on the city to slow down its land acquisition until it can completely revise its comprehensive plan, which exists to guide growth responsibly.
City leaders argue that the most recently acquired land will not be developed.
Municipal council unanimously – and without discussion – twice voted to annex two stretches of land along US 17 totaling approximately 266.31 acres. The Council voted to approve the annexation at first reading during its ordinary session meeting on July 13 then again on a second reading in a special meeting less than a week later.
As a rule, the board meets once a month.
The first land is about 251 acres next to Tomotley Plantation, which is owned by pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood and was annexed to the city in February. It begins on Bailey Road and ends at US 17, adjoining the Bull Point Plantation neighborhood. Almost all of the parcel falls within the Huspah Creek watershed.
The second parcel, only 15 acres, is across US 17, adjacent to the Bull Point neighborhood on the southern part of Huspah Creek.
The city says “there is no chance of development since 95% of the plots are waterways” and staff recommend that the area be zoned as a conservation preservation district, according to meeting minutes. Staff also said they would work with local stakeholders “to ensure this essential natural resource is not disrupted for years to come.”
The land belongs to the SC Ministry of Transport, so the council annexation vote is subject to the approval of the SC Ministry of State Administration /State fiscal responsibility authority, Which one is meeting scheduled for August 24. The agenda for this meeting has not yet been posted on the agency’s website.
Since the land is owned by the state, Yemassee cannot levy any taxes or fees on the property.
Ahead of council votes, “the city received correspondence from the state indicating that it had no objection” to the annexation, according to meeting documents.
Although the annexation proposal was only on the city’s agenda last month, a letter from DOT to Yemassee Mayor Colin Moore and City Clerk Matt Garnes saying he had “no objection “to the proposed annexation was dated a few months earlier in March. The letter was signed by Secretary of Transportation Christy A. Hall.
In a public comment letter to the board dated May, former Coastal Conservation League South Coast project manager Juliana Smith urged the board to update its full plan to include “recommendations for upgrading. implementation of an urban growth limit ”showing concerns about rapid annexations. Smith now works for Beaufort County.
The letter notes that the city of Yemassee has grown by more than five square miles in three years.
The city began as a perfect 2 mile circle around the now historic station in 1868 and had grown to around 11 square miles by February when two of the three newly purchased Lin Wood plantations were added to the city. Wood’s lands are 2.2 miles.
City Clerk Garnes said Yemassee had had “an exponential amount of changes for the better” since the last comprehensive plan in 2006, and the council voted to begin looking for a consultant to help continue an upgrade. day.
“The city appreciates the natural beauty that surrounds it and how everything is now,” Garnes said. “Our point of view is to want to play a more active role in the case of the annexation of Huspah Creek”, such as being able to have a faster emergency response and to work proactively on cleaning up the waste. .
“It was the next logical location for us,” he said.
Garnes said the council supported the mission of environmental groups and was eager to work with stakeholders, but that it “also wanted to have a fair opportunity to expand our boundaries and ensure land protection.”
Jessie White, director of the Coastal Conservation League’s south coast office, recently told The Island Packet that the group is trying to establish a working relationship with Yemassee to responsibly support its growth.
White said the group appreciated Yemassee’s efforts to update the comprehensive plan, but feared the city would continue to move forward with large annexations anyway.
“In our mind, if you are annexing large tracts of land which opens up large plots of property which can then be annexed, it is important to have a plan in place,” she said, adding that the problem does not. not always concern the specific property on the agenda but those resulting from it.
“We can appreciate the desire to grow, but growing without a plan is really risky,” White said, noting the city’s proximity to the ACE Basin. “Taking actions that seem incompatible with responsible growth is a growing and continuing frustration for us,” White said.