Final Vote Set for December 1, 2009

On a voice vote, Greenville County Council agreed to move the County’s comprehensive land use plan to a third and final reading and vote set for December 1, 2009. Amendments to the plan will be permitted at that meeting.

Prior to the vote on Tuesday, November 17, Jim Burns, chairman of the committee sponsoring the bill held a public hearing. Thirty minutes of comments each were permitted for those in favor of the plan and those opposed.

Eight people spoke in favor of the plan, led by Brad Wyche, Executive Director of Upstate Forever, the leading environmental group advocating a strong plan governing land use in Greenville County.

Ten citizens spoke in opposition to the plan being proposed. The first speaker in opposition was Robert G. “Butch” Taylor, president of the Greenville County Taxpayers Association.

Preparation of a long-range plan every ten years is required by state law that is carrying out the mandate of the federal government to implement United Nations Agenda 21, Sustained Development. A plan was prepared by Greenville County 10 years ago titled Designing Our Destiny. To the disappointment of environmental activists, the plan was never fully implemented due to objections by supporters of constitutional property rights.

While Greenville County property owners generally object to the provisions of the  proposed plan on constitutional grounds, Environmentalists who want government to dictate to landowners how they can use their property complain that the plan is not sufficiently strong and does not go far enough in mandating land use.

Burns called on opponents of the plan to speak first. “Butch” Taylor was first to speak.

Taylor reviewed the origins and political aspects of the planning requirement from United Nations Agenda 21, Sustainable Development, approved by President George H. W. Bush and implementation through Executive Orders by President Bill Clinton to the planning process in Greenville County. Taylor held up a publication that he said could be obtained from the Government Printing Office for $15.95 that explains Sustainable Development, Agenda 21.

He reviewed the series of land use plans since 1995 that included Visioning, Sustainable Development, Designing our Destiny, Smart Growth, Visioning 2025 and now Imagine Greenville County.

Taylor said the planning process locally has been extremely manipulative, using the Delphi Technique and moving people from committee to committee to achieve a pre-conceived consensus.

He said he has two major questions regarding the plan under consideration:

How will it be funded? And how will it be implemented?

“I believe there will be a groundswell of opposition when people discover how much implementation will cost and how it will impact private property,” he emphasized.

Taylor concluded by informing Council members:  “I am not your enemy, but I am your critic.”

Allen Jenkins from the rural Blue Ridge Community said he was speaking for “a significant number of small and large property owners in northern Greenville County who have significant investments in their property, most of them for their entire lives and I for over 70 years.

“We expect nothing less from elected officials than to protect our constitutional and individual rights as taxpaying citizens. We do not have the luxury or the funds to continue this fight for our property and individual rights. We are constantly bombarded by the non-profit and special interest groups and well funded organizations and groups with their own agendas.

“We can all put the burden of protection squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials and expect them to do the right thing.  We are not a special interest group. We own the property and pay the taxes on it.

“Mr. Chairman, in your letter to the citizens of Greenville County about the plan, you said that the plan is not a controlling document. Its purpose is not to mandate or require anyone to do anything. We go on record as accepting this as stated.

“When it comes to a new ordinance, please keep in mind those who pay the taxes. Do the right thing. Put yourselves in our shoes. Do the right thing.

“We own the property. We pay the taxes on it and we have the wisdom to take care of our own property and we don’t need outside interests to tell us how to do it.”

Jan Williams, who served on one of the planning groups spoke in opposition to the plan, specifically pointing out technical aspects of the plan that could be improved.

Bob Davis from Greer spoke in opposition to the plan. He took on sustainability and saving the planet by protecting the environment from a biblical perspective, concluding: “Except the Lord build a house, they that build it labor in vain.”

“We are losing our country fast,” said Davis. “We need to go to work for our country, take off the gloves and get out the brass knuckles.”

He said most people “have their heads in the sand and are nothing but ostriches.”

William Grissop said he lives on a “little piece of land” about 10 acres up near Travelers Rest. “I worked on it about 38 years with my hands and my back improving it. I never asked for any help from the government, and I was never offered any. So I cleared it, cleaned it up and kept it up and I think it is a credit to the community.

“And now someone wants to tell me how to use it.

“My research indicates I had 8 grandfathers who fought against King George. I had 12 uncles who fought. They were fighting to secure my liberty and rights to own land. I believe my ancestors came from Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany not for religious liberty, but for the ability to own land and get away from oppressive government. That is exactly why they came.

“Thousands of people have fought and died for this land so that we may be free. Now, I want to know why after all this time, someone wants to tell me how I can use my property.

“I have been told by 2 people in Greenville County who know that have been told to fence their cattle out of their water supply. They said they talked to people from Laurens County and Missouri who have experienced the same problem. It’s not just happening in South Carolina, I want to know who is behind this thing.”

Grissop said he was told at a meeting in Travelers Rest that since he only owned ten acres, he had no need to worry, because “it won’t bother you.”

“Folks, we don’t need Europe in America. We left Europe to get away from this.”

Regarding the cows, Grissop observed: “God made creeks. God made cows and God knew what cows were going to do when they got to a creek.”

Grissop said if I fence my cow out of the creek, who is going to keep all the other animals, foxes, possums, coons, rabbits, deer, wild hogs and the like out of the creek?

“Folks, I want you to think about this. Any time we take freedom away from one person, you take it away from all of us. We own this property jointly with the county. For if I don’t pay the taxes you have the power to take my land.

“If you start telling me what to do with it, I have no ownership at all. The entity that has the power to seize the land and sell it is the entity that owns the land.”

Bernard Domblesky has been a resident of Greenville County for 29 years. He went through the plan and found a lot of “double speak in here.

“In one place it says this is a policy document that serves as a guide for future decisions. Who is making those decisions?

“It says elsewhere it is not a legally binding document. There is a ‘land use map.’ Who determines when and when not to use the plan and the map?

“I understand that less than one-half of one percent of the population of Greenville County contributed input to the plan. They do not represent me. Ladies and gentlemen, please do not adopt this comprehensive plan.”

John Bynum referred to the War of Southern Independence and the possible necessity to once again take a stand as free people as government dictates what kind of light bulbs to use, how much water can be used to flush a toilet and now how one can use his own property.

Jerry Gas said he has seen similar plans adopted in two states and urged County Council not to adopt it here.

He noted that the Founding Fathers recognized the fundamental importance of property ownership and Thomas Jefferson in the first draft of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence before it was changed read: “We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are life, liberty and property.”

“At a time when our national government has lost its constitutional moorings, I ask that you please do not adopt this plan.”

Mike Harris expressed the deep felt resistance that many   property owners have regarding what they regard as an intrusive, unconstitutional long-range plan.

“I would ask that you ponder and be aware that there are 4 pillars of freedom in this country including Greenville County. They are the soap box (to exercise freedom of speech), the ballot box (to exercise the right to elect those to represent us), the jury box (to administer justice) and the cartridge box (should the other three prove insufficient).”

Harris reminded Council members that the issue of infring-

ing on property rights backs Greenville County property owners in a corner and that eventually there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Brad Wyche, executive Director of the environmentalist NGO Upstate Forever, commended the county employees and volunteers on their work but expressed disappointment that the plan does not direct or otherwise include instructions for implementation. He said the plan calls for most of the growth to take place in the center of Greenville County and the northern and southern parts of the county to remain rural.

None of the speakers in favor of the plan nor Councilman Burns who chaired the public hearing addressed the concerns of those in opposition.

Wyche was followed by seven other speakers who favored implementation of the plan to control growth in the county. Their arguments were virtually the same as those listed in the implementation plans for Agenda 21 Sustainable Development.

In addition to Wyche, the other advocates of the plan were Joe Ball, Atlanta, Georgia; Dan Gerst, Simpsonville; Mary Lou Jones, Greenville; Curtis Eskew, Greer; Scott Thompson, Greer; Darrell Reese, Greenville and Heather Nix, Greenville.

One of the speakers in favor of the plan gave his residence as Atlanta, Georgia, but said he owned property in Greenville.

Proponents of the plan did not use all of their allotted time.

The next meeting of Greenville County Council will be held Tuesday, December 1, 2009, at County Square at 6:30 p.m. Council is scheduled to have a third reading of the plan and a final vote during that meeting. Citizens will not be allowed to address Council on the plan during that meeting.

Seven of the 12 council members must vote in favor of the plan for it to pass.

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Mike Scruggs