By David Meade
Pelzer voters have the opportunity to make history next week if they approve a large scale annexation referendum being presented to them on Tuesday.
If approved, the Town of Pelzer will double the current town boundaries by including the upper and lower mill villages. And could also double that footprint again by including unincorporated areas located adjacent to and between West Pelzer and Williamston that are included in the Pelzer Voting Precinct.
The unincorporated area that will be brought into the town includes properties located between Depot Road, Palmetto Road, Palmetto High practice fields, both sides of SC Highway 20 including Fred’s, and along Courtney St., to the town owned lagoon property.
Properties on the Williamston side of Courtney Street including Brookview, Page and Tripp Streets just outside the Town of Williamston are not included in the annexation.
The expanded boundary could be smaller depending on a new development involving a strip annexation by the Town of Williamston which could block a portion of the area from being included in the Pelzer annexation. (See separate story)
The town and supporters of annexation began a push in January to proceed with a 25 percent petition and election method of anenxation.
A petition was presented to council and sent to the county election commission in March for certification and the referendum date was set for June 9. The Anderson County Election Commission is running the election.
Any registered voter in the Pelzer voting precinct can participate in the election which will decide, by majority vote, if the entire Pelzer voting precinct will be incorporated into the town limits of Pelzer.
If the annexation referendum is approved, second reading on the ordinance can be held 30 days after publication of the election results and the annexation will be final.
Unless . . . five percent or more of the electors within the municipality present another petition for a second vote. If this happens, the final reading must be delayed until the petition is certified and the annexation goes to another vote. If a majority oppose the annexation it fails and another annexation election can not be initiated for two years.
If the referendum passes and the town limits are extended, any person residing in the new town limits for at least thirty days is eligible to run for office and/or vote in the next town election which will be in November.
Pelzer Councilwoman Cheryl Beaudreau has stated that eventual police protection, the right to vote, and the right to help Pelzer grow were some of the initial advantages to being a part of the town.
Pelzer Mayor Stcve McGregor has indicated the town should have been expanded years ago.
Pelzer Resident Gilbert Garrett has been instrumental in supporting the annexation process. His home was annexed into the town two years ago by his request under the 100 percent method. Five other properties were annexed at the same time. He said so far there has not been a negative. He said he became involved “to help the town in some way with the process.” Garrett also cites the possibility of eventually getting police protection. He also says the right to vote and to participate are good reasons.
“It would give the community a common bond and would be good for the town to become one, be protected and to be a part of the town.”
Garrett said his neighbors will have to “decide for themselves if the community at large is annexed to be a real town.”
During a worksession on annexation, a representative of the SC Municipal Association presented information about annexation.
According to the MASC, benefits to residents usually include improved services, additional services such as streetlights and utilities, law enforcement and fire protection, lower property insurance ratings, planning and zoning land use regulations and participation in the local municipal government.
Benefits to the municipality usually include more citizens participating in the government, economy of scale in providing services, increased revenue sharing to support services and better planning.
Positives brought up during recent disucssions include: eventual police protection, the right to vote, and the right to help Pelzer grow and street lights being turned back on.
Currently no taxes are paid by residents who are already in the town. There is a 3 percent franchise fee paid on Charter, Fort Hill Gas and Duke Energy bills.
Benefits being presented by supporters include:
ANNEXATION OF TOWN OF PELZER BENEFITS
1. Representation by Pelzer Town Council.
2. Ability to vote for council and mayor of Pelzer.
3. Ability to be elected to public office in Pelzer.
4. If passed, all the street lights will be back on.
5. Pelzer does not qualify for many grants because the town has less than forty houses. By annexing the entire village Pelzer’s larger footprint makes it more likely that grants will be available. West Pelzer qualified for a grant to replace their old water lines. Pelzer has lines the same age. If they have to be replaced without a grant the town will have no choice but to raise water rates to pay for it.
6. Pelzer is in need of better law enforcement protection. Annexation will allow the town to explore ways of providing more options of providing protection and safety to the entire community.
7. More residents involved in the business of the town will bring new ideas to help the town recover and root out the problems.
1. A 3% monthly franchise fee on utilities that have a franchise agreement with the Town of Pelzer will be charged. The fee is returned to Pelzer quarterly. The fee will allow Pelzer to turn on the street lights.
2. There is no property tax in the Town of Pelzer. Decisions in the future about a property tax will be made by your elected representatives.
If it passes, the only tax or fee that would be paid by the town’s new residents is a three percent franchise fee on utility bills for Fort Hill Gas, Charter Cable and Duke Energy. The fee, currently paid by 89 residents that are inside the town, brings in approximately $31,000 to the town’s general fund.
The three percent franchise fee could result in an additional $150,000 or more in revenue for the town each year.