Neely Ferry Development Update

More good coverage from Post and Courier Greenville: https://bit.ly/3oW7K92. I think Conor Hughes must not sleep!

From the article:

➡️ “Councilwoman Jenn Hulehan, who represents the ward where the new development would be built, said she agreed a 55-plus community would be a good fit for the property. “While we’re looking at 42 units, we’re only looking at potentially generating the [peak time] traffic of something like 14 regular, single-family home units,” she said.”

➡️ “The request considered Dec. 14 was for innovative development zoning, which would give the city much more control and oversight throughout the process. Zenith also tweaked its plans in light of concerns members of council voiced in September, adding features such as rear entry garages on every unit. The approval also came with the condition that sidewalks inside the development be extended about 500 feet north along Neely Ferry to connect with the crosswalk in front of Plain Elementary.”

📝 Some notes from me:

🚶‍♀️That sidewalk to the cross walk is important. It will help connect that neighborhood not just to the cross walk/school but to Westwood, to Food Lion (and everything in the shopping center), CVS, and even all the way to downtown (I have a senior neighbor who actually walks downtown every day).

🏡 As a Council, we have a responsibility to ensure housing that meets population trends in our city. Boomers are aging. And as they are, they are seeking homes that support their active lifestyles and require less maintenance. In this community, they have access to amenities to support that lifestyle and maintenance is provided via an HOA. We must create a Simpsonville that people can call “simply home” at every phase of life.

🚗 During peak hours, yes, traffic to and from the school is difficult. You have a lot of people trying to get to one place and a lot of people trying to leave one place all at the same time. However, during non-peak times, Neely Ferry can handle the additional 14 homes’ worth of traffic. National traffic studies on senior housing back that up: they generate on average about 1/4 of the traffic of a traditional single-family home. My own experience, which I shared with my colleagues last night, also backs that up. I’ve sat out there with the crossing guard and observed school time traffic. I also walk that way with Oakley every day. Just yesterday, around 3:30, we walked that road from Plain to Capewood, and in about ten minutes, 16 cars passed us. Eight going towards Capewood and eight towards West Georgia. That’s comparable to other non-peak times we’ve walked it and counted.

❓At the end of the day, the Anders family is selling that property; something will go there. The question for Council is what can go there that will be an asset to the city and not create an additional burden on our city resources. I think this plan is the answer. The developer worked hard to address the concerns we originally shared. A public meeting was held at First Baptist Simpsonville for people to share their thoughts on the project. Owners of neighboring properties were notified and asked to share their thoughts. The Innovative Development zoning allows the city to have much more control over what goes there. This project is the result, and it’s a good one.

🤝 It’s also another good example of what happens when we all (Council, Planning Commissioners, property owners, developers, citizens) work together as a team with the city’s best interests at heart. Municipal government is a team sport. We’re better together.

📝 For more notes on green space and amenities like pocket parts, the rubberized walking trail, home elevations and access points, see the list in my previous post: https://bit.ly/3ywz9S7

Last Meeting of 2021

That’s a wrap! We’ve completed the last business meeting of 2021. It was Councilmember Kelley’s last meeting, and the mayor presented her with a plaque for her service. The city has experienced peace and prosperity since 2018. Much of that would not have been possible if Councilmembers Hutchings, Roche, and Kelley had not chosen to run and serve this city when she needed them. The best any of us can ask is that when we leave office, we leave Simpsonville better than it was before. Councilmember Kelley can say that’s true.

We had some great discussion about the Neely Ferry annexation, requested some additional info on the West Georgia Rd one, and approved on final reading the SE Main St one. We also appointed members to the Planning Commission and BZA. Here’s to a peaceful holiday season for us all and continued peace and prosperity for the city in the new year. Merry Christmas, Simpsonville!

Low Voter Turnout

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor rose to a point of personal privilege to speak about the recent election. The results were certified last Friday. The mayor, a bit of a data nerd like me, had been looking them over and doing some math. He pointed out a sad truth: only 7% of registered voters cast a ballot this election. That’s as low a turnout as I can recall. 7% of voters cast a ballot. Let that sink in. That means 3.6% of registered voters chose the new Councilmember for Ward 2. A mere 7% stepped up to make the choice, and 3.6% chose the person who will represent all 18,000 registered voters, all 23,000+ residents. All of that is to say, echoing the mayor’s comments, that voting is a privilege and a duty. Your vote matters more at the local level than anywhere else. None of us should abdicate that responsibility or give up that privilege to a mere 7% of us. We vote again in two years. I will anyway. And I hope you will too.

The mayor also congratulated Councilmembers Hutchings and Roche on their re-election (which he pointed out was not a given…just ask the mayor of Pacolet), and he congratulated Mr. Rupe on his win (although he unfortunately wasn’t there).

GCRA Resolution Approved

Also at Tuesday’s Business Meeting, we hosted a public hearing for the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority 2020 Program Year Annual Action Plan. Later, Council unanimously approved Resolution #2020-03, CDBG/HOME Funds for FY 2020. What I find most exciting about our plan for this year is that HOME and CDBG funds will both go to support housing for the first time I can remember. Previously, we’ve spent money on sidewalks in low to moderate income neighborhoods like Woodside and Boyd/Morton, and we’ve funded the Senior Center. All have been valuable efforts that improved our community. This year, though, the funds will also help support the building of the 13 homes planned for the Habitat for Humanity Woodside Project. This is important because we have an affordable housing problem in Greenville County and in our own city. In fact, Simpsonville was identified as one of seven municipalities statewide with an especially severe shortage of affordable housing.

Notably, we still have GCRA funds to apply to improvements for the Senior Center and for the facade program.

Additionally, please note that GCRA will conduct a Citizen Participation Needs Assessment on March 2, 2020 at 6 PM at the Simpsonville Public Library. Please plan to join!

Reducing Speed on South Main

One of the things Council voted at last night’s Committee of the Whole: lowering the speed limit on South Main. Council voted unanimously to reduce the speed limit to 20 MPH, and staff will begin the process to determine what, if any, other traffic calming measures may be necessary. The vote comes after several citizens called, emailed, and spoke at Council about problems with speeders in the area where our new shared use path/trail begins. As we create a more walk/bike friendly environment in downtown, we must ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. Additional safety measures like the “armadillo” barriers have already been planned and should be installed in the near future. Council and staff also discussed the need for better enforcement in the area. Chief Hanshaw will work on that. The new speed limit would be in effect from Trade St to Fairview. This is South Main, which is the road that runs directly in front of Vaughn’s (between Vaughn’s and the Pumpkin Patch location) down to Goodwill. It is where the paving for the trail was just completed. This is not Main St., which runs in front of Powderhorn, Chancellor’s Park,  etc. Final vote: February 11.

Phase 1a Simpsonville Employee Compensation Increases

Final vote for Phase 1a of the Simpsonville employee compensation updates was tonight. Resolution 2019-04 passed unanimously!

Background: We did a citywide employee classification and compensation study. I’ve been calling for that since 2016. Our employees are our greatest asset. They provide quality service and deserve pay more commensurate with their responsibilities, experience, and education.

The long-term plan is to get every employee up to the minimum of their new classification. It will cost 1.7 million dollars, so we’re going in phases.

Phase 1a: the folks with “boots on the ground” at SPD and SFD. Cost $322,500. NO tax increase.

We found 1/3 of that cost in the current budget. And will use FY19 surplus to cover the remainder. FY19 surplus = $2,000,000. This is an excellent use of that money IMO. Again, we are not increasing taxes for our citizens to fund this. This is a win for everyone. We need the pay raises for those who put their lives on the line for us every day. I’ve been pushing for PD & FD recruitment & retention since 2016.

Just give out an idea of what this looks like for the men and women who protect us every day, our SPD starting pay for a patrol officer will increase from $34,775 to $38,862. Starting pay for firefighter will increase from $30,360 to $35,742.

This will improve recruitment and retention, make us competitive with our sister cities, and is a fairer pay for the good work they do. Within two years, we will implement step increases to ensure experience is rewarded. If you work with us for five years, your pay should reflect that.

Phase 1b will get all other city employees up to their new minimums. We expect to incorporate this into the FY21 budget. Phase 1b cost = $550,000. Phase 2 will be getting all employees step increases to compensate for tenure in the new classification. This phased approach is fiscally responsible. Council only voted on Phase 1a because 1b and 2 will be accounted for in the FY21 & FY22 budgets.

This is the kind of long-term planning I’ve been arguing for since elected. Finally making progress!

Did someone say “downtown parking?”

Did someone say “downtown parking?” There’s some news on that from last night’s meeting also!

Council approved a downtown parking agreement (that includes signage) with Temple Baptist Church. It’s a 2-year agreement that could be extended if needed. It will definitely help as we continue to work out an agreement with Dr. Verdin to hopefully purchase and pave his old lot for permanent downtown parking. All of this will be considered as part of the Downtown Master Plan that Council also approved funding for last night!

Public-Parking-Right-Sign-K-8845-R

Meeting Recap: Road Resurfacing

Did you miss our meeting last night? Were you thinking you might not listen to the MP3 of last night’s City Council meeting? Well, then, you’d be missing all kinds of excitement! No…really:

Last night, one of the items Council voted on was on the allocation of some unanticipated revenue (what’s not exciting about unexpected money?!). These funds are coming to us from GHS (now Prisma). We will be receiving $132,711. Council agreed to spend $8,540 on unanticipated user fees associated with the new fire apparatus. We agreed to put $30,000 to a new Downtown Master Plan. The last time a Downtown Master Plan was completed was 1987! It’s important that we continue to invest in public spaces, especially our downtown area, to encourage further private investment in our city. Council agreed that the remaining balance of funds ($94,171) should go towards road resurfacing. We’ve been desperately trying to catch up on needed road improvements, but we just don’t have the money to get done all we need to each year. What’s even better is that the County Transportation Commission agreed to match our GHS/Prisma funds, so we will actually have an unanticipated $188,342 to put towards road resurfacing! Who says City Council meetings aren’t exciting?!

Oh…and ICYMI: Domino’s Pizza is giving us $5000 for fixing potholes! 🍕 Thanks to all of YOU who nominated us for those 💵!

We have much to be grateful for here in Simpsonville and much to look forward to.

Updates from 6.26.18 Meeting

Here are some updates from the 6.26.18 Committee of the Whole meeting that you might find interesting:

 PUBLIC WORKS

Continuing to work on sewer and other infrastructure improvements on SE Main in support of the new restroom building and alleyway improvements to be constructed. I am excited that we are making progress on this project because the restrooms downtown will make spending time there much more appealing—and that’s good foe everyone!

Crosswalks downtown have been painted for improved pedestrian safety.  We have more people than ever downtown these days, so it’s important that we keep our very walkable downtown as safe as possible for our residents and visitors.

PARKS and RECREATION

Director Robbie Davis is working with Greenville County Redevelopment Authority on improvements to the Senior Center utilizing CDBG funding.  This funding is provided to the city for improvements to low-to-moderate income areas of the city. We received updates on this funding an recommendations for its use earlier this year.  This is a great way to use this money.

ADMINISTRATION

Justin Campbell has accepted the position of Community Relations Specialist with the City of Simpsonville. Justin is a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in Journalism. He has experience writing for The Tiger and, most recently, The Seneca Journal. Justin has strong communication skills coupled with excellent writing skills. He will be a tremendous asset in disseminating City information to media outlets, pushing content through social media, and working with all City departments on graphic presentations and grant writing. We welcome Justin to Team Simpsonville and look forward to working with him!

These are a few exciting things (Meeting Recap)

Despite having a packed agenda, we had an efficient and productive Business Meeting tonight. With the time change, that means we left while it was still daylight!

Here are some other things I’m excited about from tonight’s meeting:

  1. Waterleaf at Neely Ferry.  Council unanimously approved this Concept Plan.  I previously told you why this plan is exciting and good for Simpsonville: road improvements, green space, sidewalks and connectivity, authentic collaboration between Graycliffe Capital and the City of Simpsonville, and smart growth!
  2. South Street Innovative Development Concept Plan.  At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on February 27th, Council voted to move this to the Business Meeting.  Despite voting yes, I had some lingering concerns about sidewalks (or lack thereof) and connectivity.  I took those concerns to our Planning and Economic Development Director, Jason Knudsen: there are no sidewalks on Corporate Drive or N. Industrial Dr. Mr. Knudsen knows how I feel about sidewalks and connectivity.  And he suggested we ask Gray Engineering, the firm who submitted the Statement of Intent, if they’d work with us to improve the walkability of the area.  End result? We’re getting 2 additions to the plan: a) the addition of a sidewalk extending up Corporate Dr. connecting to South Street; and b) the addition of a ten-foot-wide, multi-use trail from Corporate Dr. to Richardson St. This is a great public improvement!  Not only do we get increased walkability/connectivity, but also, as Mr. Knudsen pointed out in tonight’s meeting, this is good long-term planning.  After all, what do we want in Simpsonville? A trail!  And here’s one small trail that could potentially be a part of the bigger trail we’re working with the National Parks Service and concerned citizens on. And that’s exciting!
  3. Speaking of long-term planning, I am also excited that Council unanimously approved the appointment of Chief Wesley Williams as City Administrator Pro tem. So here’s the thing: Simpsonville has experienced a great deal of instability over the last several years.  Dianna Gracely (who we’re so happy to have now!) makes the 4th City Administrator who’s been at the helm in my short tenure on Council.  Especially with the unexpected and tragic passing of Mr. Eddie Case, we realized that we need to be better prepared (in advance) for how the city moves forward in the absence of a City Administrator. We don’t need to be caught unawares and scrambling to decide what happens if something keeps the City Administrator from being able to do her job (although we certainly hope nothing will ever happen to Ms. Gracely). The idea of a pro-tem Administrator was first broached by Mr. Cummings.  We talked it out, and we decided this is the right choice in planning for the future. The appointment essentially mirrors that of the Mayor Pro Tem, and “pro tem” really just means “temporary.” So in the event that Ms. Gracely cannot–for whatever reason–serve in her role as City Administrator, Chief Williams will serve in her place temporarily.  They will work together closely to make sure that Chief Williams is apprised of any business, processes, or procedures that he may need to understand in Ms. Gracely’s absence to keep the city running smoothly. Given his experience, dedication, and vast knowledge of everything Simpsonville, Chief Williams is the obvious choice for this appointment.  Better planning for the future will always excite me. That’s what this is. And it’s what I promised to work on back in 2015/2016.