By David Meade
Williamston Town Council approved first reading on a “ribbon annexation” that if finalized will block a number of properties located outside the mill villages from being annexed in the Pelzer annexaton referendum next week.
Williamston council unanimously approved the annexation that only includes a 10 ft. strip of land on 13 properties that were to be included in the expanded Pelzer town limits if the June 9 Pelzer annexation referendum passed.
The ribbon annexation includes property contiguous to four properties annexed last year by Williamston in anticipation of the unofficially announced Walmart.
The 13 properties are located along Hwy. 20 to Hwy. 8 at Pelzer then along a large property tract adjacent to the mill village and Courtney Street which has already been opted out of the Pelzer referendum as a large agricultural tract.
The strip annexation will effectively block what has been described as the unintentional annexation of properties outside the mill village.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said he has been working with several property owners, who did not want their property annexed into Pelzer, to find a way to keep them out of the Pelzer annexation referendum process.
A number of property owners on Depot Road and some with property between Pelzer and Williamston have been vocal about not wanting to be included in the annexation, which unintentionally included them by defining the area to be annexed as the unincorporated area of the Pelzer Voting Precinct.
One of those property owners is John Roache. Roache lives on Depot Road and owns property between Williamston and Pelzer.
Roache said his reason for not wanting his property included in Pelzer is the possibility of ordinances and taxes that come with being in the city limits. “Pelzer can’t offer me anything. I get my water from Williamston,” he said. “The ribbon annexation as proposed would add value to my property that could be potentially developed in the future.”
Roache said he has been very vocal about not wanting to be a part of Pelzer’s annexation and that Pelzer officials have been very honest and helpful about what is going on.
He said he really didn’t want his property to be included in Pelzer or Williamston. “I am currently in the county and want to remain in the county,” he said.
Roache said the ribbon annexation was the only way that could happen, which is why he and the other property owners agreed to the process.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said the ribbon annexation came about at the request by certain property owners who desired not to be included in the Pelzer annexation process. “It is a request by citizens for annexation into the town.These property owners wanted not to be in Williamston or Pelzer, but to detach themselves from the annexation process so they would remain county residents and property owners.”
Durham also contacted and secured signatures of some of the property owners, including the owner of the old Sky City strip center, about the ribbon annexation.
Some representatives of Pelzer attended the meeting and were clearly concerned about the steps Williamston is taking.
Pelzer Town Clerk Heather Holcombe said that Williamston’s annexation would block commercial properties that Pelzer wants included in the town including the old shopping center and a restaurant.
Resident Gilbert Garrett, who has been supportive of annexation in Pelzer said, “It may be legal, but it certainly is not right.” Garrett urged the Williamston council to “reject this annexation or table it and take a look at it to see if it is what you want to do.”
Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor said the mill village concept worked for a number of years but Pelzer is trying to do now what should have been done 63 years ago when the town was formed.
“We are trying to work with what we’ve got,” he said. McGregor finished his comments with the statement, “Leadership counts, accountability counts and integrity counts.”
After an executive session with the town attorney and property owners requesting the ribbon annexation, council returned to regular session and unanimously approved first reading on it.
A special called meeting of Williamston Town Council will be held Monday, June 8 for second reading which will finalize the annexation of the strip of land on each of the 13 properties.
The vote will be held on the eve of the Pelzer annexation referendum which will take place June 9.
If Williamston’s ribbon annexation passes on second reading, it effectively takes the 13 properties out of the Pelzer annexation and blocks adjacent properties, including those on Depot Road, by making them non-contiguous to Pelzer.
See Map of Area in Ribbon Annexation
Note: The area of the ribbon or strip annexation by Williamston is in the center of the map outlined in purple. The green outlined area is the Pelzer Voting Precinct.