About 100 people attended the first organizational meeting of the Merriwether Community Coalition March 5 at Merriwether Middle School.
The enthusiastic crowd voiced its concern for the future of the Merriwether Community. Fifty percent of the growth of Edgefield County is in the Merriwether community, in the southwest part of the county. Speakers at the event were: Linda Anderson, a coalition organizational member and host for the meeting; Roger LeDuc, the interim administrator; and Dr. David Hughes of Clemson Extension Economic and Community Development. Local representatives in attendance were: Genia Blackwell, the county council District 5 representative and vice chairman; Rodney Ashcraft, the county council District 2 representative; Sen. Shane Massey; and Rep. Bill Hixon. Also in attendance was William Smith, a candidate for county council District 1.
We consider this community to be the gateway to Edgefield County. The main theme of the evening was the need for planning, because uncontrolled growth is undesirable.
LeDuc discussed the results of a recently completed strategic plan for Edgefield County, especially as it pertains to the southwestern portion. Rails to Trails – extending bike and pedestrian trails throughout the community using 43 miles of abandoned railroads similar to Greeneway in North Augusta, which can be developed over the next several years – was discussed. The FATS trail, which attracts hundreds of visitors each week, can be a major tourist attraction. Population growth has come from this area of the county and is expected to continue. Residents identified the need for more public safety, fire protection, EMS, gas lines, sewer and garbage, litter control and more broadband–cellular services. Planning is essential to meet the needs and desires of the community and to prepare for future growth.
A 400-unit housing development is planned in the North Augusta Country Club area. Infrastructure improvements such as water and sewer are planned and can be paid for with impact fees. How do we pay for other needs and improvements? LeDuc explained several options, such as tax increment financing districts, and local option sales tax.
While the county has good development standards, LeDuc said they could be better.
Most of the Merriwether area is residential. Residents have expressed interest in grocery stores, restaurants, shopping and recreational areas. To prepare for these, planning needs to take place, including identifying areas where these could be located.
Concerns expressed by residents include: future needs in educational facilities; where our tax dollars are going in our area and elsewhere in the county; are we as taxpayers getting our share of needs and improvements met in the Merriwether community; do we have enough representation on the county school board and other governmental agencies; and what impact will the North Augusta Park (Northview Park) coming to our community at Murrah Road and Five Notch have
Hughes discussed a strategic plan his department faculty and students completed for Fair Play, S.C. Fair Play is similar in many ways to the Merriwether community. Hughes suggested ways he and his department can help in establishing a strategic plan tailored specifically to our community.
Establishing communication is key. When asked, “Do we want to come together, establish this group and be a voice for our community?” the answer was an enthusiastic “Yes.” Anyone interested in this group may contact Linda Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.