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. And that’s what this is.


On Development and Smart Growth

Development dominated the agenda of our last Committee of the Whole meeting.  As did talk of smart growth and traffic concerns.  These are concerns Council hears from YOU.  And we are reflecting those concerns in our discussions around and decisions about proposed development.

Late last year, Council unanimously voted down a project at the corner of Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin.  As I explained here, this was a request for a major change to the plan originally submitted after the city annexed this property in 2006. It is known as Waterleaf at Neely Ferry and is located right behind Food Lion.

We explained several reasons why we were opposed to this proposed development. You can read about that here.

As a result, the developer “went back to the drawing board.”  In between the December meeting and our Committee of the Whole meeting in February, I had the opportunity to speak directly to the developer, Graycliffe Capital. And at the most recent meeting, they presented a new plan to Council, one that I am really excited about.  Here’s why:

  1. One of Council’s concerns was about a blind spot created by a hill on Neely Ferry as you coming past S. Baldwin towards W. Georgia Rd. If you drive this route, you know what I’m talking about: it’s difficult to see at all what’s coming and can be very dangerous.  Graycliffe heard us, and they brought a solution.  They spoke to SCDOT about what it would take to resolve this issue.  SCDOT will not itself do anything to correct the issue.  However, Graycliffe has offered to fix it at their expense.  They will basically shave down the road to eliminate the hill that creates the blind spot. This, to me, is one of the best things about this project.  We will get road improvements we would otherwise never get.  We get to address an existing safety concern that would only have been made worse by more traffic.  This is the kind of response from developers we like to and should see.
  2. Another concern was the entry/exit onto S. Baldwin. Council simply does not believe that S. Baldwin can handle additional traffic.  Problem solved: entry and exit onto S. Baldwin will be gated and protected by a Knox Box.  This will prevent anyone other than emergency vehicles from entering.  Emergency vehicles must be able to enter because that’s required.
  3. I recently wrote about the importance of sidewalks and connectivity. Another major plus for me is that this neighborhood will be connected internally and externally by sidewalk. It will be completely walkable.  The developer will connect to the existing sidewalk on Neely Ferry in front of the Food Lion.  This connection will allow those who live at the Water Leaf to walk easily and safely to buy groceries at Food Lion or pick up prescriptions at CVS.  And because we already have crosswalks and walk signals at the intersection of Neely Ferry and West Georgia Rd., they’ll also be able to walk their children to Plain Elementary.
  4. The plan we saw in December was for an all residential project. And as I mentioned previously, this area had been identified for mixed use. The developer took note of our objection to this change.  The new development is mixed use.  It features not just apartments but also office buildings.  Density has been reduced—there will be fewer apartments.  This is in keeping with the city’s vision for this area.
  5. Green space! The old plan basically levelled the property. The new plan preserves a significant amount of the natural area, saving existing trees and incorporating a new walking trail.

This new project is a wonderful example of smart growth. This is a development that helps Simpsonville.  I spoke in favor of this development at the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 27th.  I voted in favor of it.  Council unanimously voted yes.  The project will now appear on the March Business Meeting agenda for a final vote.

I hope that we see more authentic collaboration between developers and city officials in the future.  And I hope we see more results like this.

As presented to both the Planning Commission and Council at the February Committee of the Whole: screenshot_20180306-141608878466298.png

Let’s Talk Sidewalks

I often hear people lament that Simpsonville is losing its “small town appeal.” I think one of the keys to maintaining that feel is connectivity. And one way we achieve that is through creating and maintaining walkable neighborhoods. That means sidewalks, something Councilwoman Sherry Roche and I agreed yesterday are important. It’s also why I’m really excited the sidewalk project in the Woodside Mills neighborhood is set to finally start this Spring (if you live there, look for a neighborhood meeting near the end of March). Of course, sidewalks cost big money. We got help from GCRA on the Woodside Mills sidewalks. But that’s not always an option. So it may be time to start thinking outside the box (something many of our Councilmembers are ready to do). I’m not sure what’s in this article ( is something that would work here, but thinking about options is important. In this example, a $300,000 sidewalk project became a $26,000 “protected walking lane” project, something much more doable. Our new Councilmembers agree that it’s time to stop saying “we can’t” and start asking “how can we?” Because that’s what’s best for Simpsonville.

Updates From the December Meeting

The December Business Meeting had two items referred to Council from the Planning Commission.  One was a 2nd reading for an annexation of property along Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin Roads. The annexation request asks for the property to be zoned  Residential–High Density, and the applicant wants to build 64 townhomes on the property.  I expressed concern regarding traffic and other impacts related to this rezoning, especially given a plan to develop another Residential–High Density apartment complex directly across the street.  Mr. Gooch expressed similar concerns.  Mr. Graham moved to table the discussion to allow more time for the applicant and staff to work on this project.  That motion passed 4-2, with Mr. Gooch and I voting no (Ms. Braswell was absent).  I voted no because I don’t think there’s anything that would change my mind regarding this development if brought back to Council in January.  Nothing changed between the November reading and the December reading, after all.

The second item referred from the Planning Commission was to make a major change to the plan for the other development on Neely Ferry (now called Waterleaf). This is right behind Food Lion.  This land was annexed into the city back in 2006. At that time, Council approved a plan for a mixed use development.  That means it would include retail and office space in addition to some multi-family housing.  The project was never developed.  Now the developer would like this Council to agree to a Major Change that would make this development all Residential–High Density and include up to 410 units.  Again, that’s a lot of activity in that area, in my opinion.  In addition, our Comprehensive Plan identifies this area as “Village Activity Center.”  That means the City plans for it to be mixed use.  Yet, the developer, City staff, and the Planning Commission asked us to approve this change.  If you know me, you know I have been pushing for better long-term planning in Simpsonville.  In this case, we had a plan, and we were being asked to ignore it.  I simply could not support this.  Neither could the rest of Council.  This project was voted down.

We Can, We Will…with a Unified Council

$10,250: the amount the FD requested for one of their wants in 2016: the Fire Safety House.  We exceeded this goal with a #OneSimpsonville effort that included the city, businesses, citizens, and especially Modern Woodmen of America. City Tax $$ spent: $0.00.

$13,466.36: amount raised via the Raise the Roof Fundraiser for a shelter at the Tater Shed Amphitheater.  Also a #OneSimpsonville effort by citizens, businesses, and the city. City tax $$: $0.00.

$10,000: proposed donation from private donor for additional cost of the shelter at the Tater Shed Amphiteater. City tax dollars that will be used for this project: $0.00.

$280,000: Grant funding earned by the City of Simpsonville towards the Swamp Rabbit Trail (thanks, Steve Moore!).  Granted based on a vision, a plan, hard work, and the #OneSimpsonville spirit.  City tax dollars proposed for use in first stretch of SRT: $0.00.

$20,000: Goal for Sensory Playground Equipment. Goal exceeded. City tax contribution: $0.00.

That’s just what I remember off the top of my head. It leaves a lot out. It totals OVER $593,716. For the record, that’s a 1/4 of the proposed initial cost of the Arts Center that some candidates keep claiming we will have to raid the city coffers to fund.And most of that was done in just around a year.

We accomplished all that because we had vision–a Council majority committed to that vision and finding ways to make it happen. And because YOU, your citizens, want these types of projects to be a priority to improve our quality of life here in Simpsonville.  I will work to make sure we continue in this direction. Some candidates have indicated they will too.  Others have said NO. They claim it can’t be done. It’s up to YOU to decide on November 7th who you want working for YOU. Those who say WE CAN. And work to ensure WE WILL. Or those who say WE CAN’T.  Choose wisely.


All the Candidates Agree! (No, really!)

I attended the forum at City Park Monday night, where all 6 candidates spoke and answered questions.  And they all agreed on 2 key issues: 1) restore leaf pickup service (no bagging!); and 2) no tax increases.

Yes, that’s right. They all agreed on those two things.  No surprise–they know these things are important to you. They’re important to all of us. So if they all agree on those issues, who should you vote for?

One word: Vision.

Vote for those who have it. Vote for those whose vision of Simpsonville in 5, 10, 15 years most closely aligns with yours.

As I’ve told you before, our Public Works Department ended up in its current state because of a lack of long-term planning and the lack of a cohesive, forward-thinking Council, a Council whose majority lacked vision.  A Council whose majority made decisions–big decisions–absent any long-term plans or vision.  And that’s unacceptable because every decision Council makes should be driven by that long-term plan and vision.

Enough.  We need real leadership. You voted for that in 2015. And you should vote for it again now. I’ve been calling for a long-term strategic plan since 2015. We’ve been stalled at every turn. So January 2018 is the time to make progress on that goal.  We need real leaders with real vision to help us do that.

And as I said previously, we also need people who have a demonstrated ability to work with the current Council.  And people whose experiences will complement those of us currently serving on Council. This is the only way we will make real progress over the next two years.  And I’m ready for that to happen.  I know you are too.  Don’t forget to vote November 7th.