Pelzer Heritage partners with county on blight

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By David Meade

The Pelzer Heritage Commission is partnering with Anderson County on a neighborhood blight elimination initiative program.

According to Anderson County Community Planner and grant writer Steve Newton, Anderson County is in the process of applying for a grant through the SC Housing Office, which makes funds available to acquire property with substandard residential housing and to tear it down.

The county is applying for the grant but must partner with a non profit on the project, Newton said. If the grant is approved, funds will be used in conjunction with funds the county has for blight elimination.

The county has set back $150,000 each year for the past two years and is now in the third year of the program, Newton said.

“This program will allow us to supplement those funds and get quite a few years ahead.”

Newton said the county is applying for the grant this week and will probably hear something on it by March.

The county has already torn down approximately 50 substandard structures, Newton said.

Approximately 20 structures in the Williamston, Pelzer and West Pelzer area could be targeted he said.

Under the program, properties throughout the county are prioritized on a demolition list using the grant criteria and procedures that are required.

Newton said the county will initially concentrate on properties that have already been through the acquisition process

Newton said under the program, property owners are notified that a property is a nuisance and county officials try to work with the property owner to resolve the problem.

If demolition is done on a nuisance property, a tax lien can be placed on it and if it goes into tax default, the property is offered for auction. If not purchased, the property then goes to the County Forfeited Land Commission.

Newton said acquisition of property from owners is voluntary. Buildings are not inhabited and must meet demolition criteria, he said.

Newton stressed that it is a voluntary acquisition and there is no eminient domain process involved.

Under the grant program, properties acquired and demolished are transferred to a partner non-profit organization.

“Once we acquire the property, it will transfer to our partner non-profit,” Newton said.

The county will acquire a three year lease on the property which allows the county to maintain it. After the three year period, several options are specified by the grant.

Newton said the non profit may want to retain ownership if the property fits in with plans they have or the county could reassume ownership.

If the county keeps it, use would most likely be as passive open space or a neighborhood park, Newton said. The decision would be made after consultation with the neighborhood organization and citizens, he said.

Properties could also be incorporated into residential redevelopment according to Newton.

The Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) is hoping the program will help with some problem properties in the Pelzer area.

The PHC is also applying for cleanup grants for the upper and lower mill properties and the old dump site on the Saluda River.

Anderson County has also been involved in the cleanup efforts.