Editor’s Note: The information in this article was posted to The Journal website as it happened last week.
By David Meade
The 30 days leading up to the final approval of the Pelzer annexation did see some drama, as Williamston officials wrestled with a ribbon annexation being pursued by Mayor Mack Durham, and Pelzer officials watched to see how it would affect their annexation.
The attempt to set, or reset, town boundaries for both towns began in June, just before a vote on incorporating the entire Pelzer voting precinct into the town of Pelzer. Pelzer’s annexation had been in the works for almost six months.
Williamston Town Council unanimously approved first reading on a ribbon annexation on June 1, one week before the Pelzer annexation referendum vote was held, and approved, on June 9.
If approved, Williamston’s ribbon annexation of a ten foot strip on thirteen different properties, would have effectively cut Pelzer’s annexation area in half.
One week later, on the day before the Pelzer referendum vote, instead of holding second reading, Williamston Town Council tabled the issue when most of the property owners involved in the ribbon annexation opted out.
According to one of the property owners, almost every one of the 13 property owners decided at that time they did not want to be a part of the Williamston strip or ribbon annexation stating that “it went too far” into the Pelzer area.
Mayor Durham and Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor both said they intended to meet to discuss the issue.
According to both mayors, attempts were made but kept falling through during the two weeks prior to Pelzer’s second reading.
The final reading on the annexation ordinance was scheduled for Monday, June 20, just over 30 days after a published notice and a required period for public input.
Mayor Durham and Councilmember David Harvell met with property owners Tuesday (July 14) in an effort to bring the ribbon annexation back for a second reading vote and it appeared the issues would be voted on later in the week. Mayor McGregor did not attend the meeting.
Mayor Durham attempted to have a phone conference call vote with members of Williamston Town Council on Thursday morning, but due to complications and uncertainty of the legality, the phone meeting was canceled.
At the time, three members of Williamston’s town council were on their way to the SC Municipal Association meeting in Hilton Head. Councilman Otis Scott was with the mayor in Town Hall.
After canceling the phone vote, Mayor Durham, who was also heading to Hilton Head later that day, said he may try to schedule a meeting for Sunday, when all members of council would be back in town.
However later Thursday morning, The Journal received notification that Williamston Town Council planned to hold a special called meeting in Hilton Head Friday morning to address the issue.
A phone conference call was set up for 11:15 a.m. with councilmembers Tony Hagood, Rockey Burgess, David Harvell and Mayor Durham in Hilton Head and Town Clerk Michelle Starnes, Town Attorney Lee Cole and Councilman Otis Scott in Williamston.
In a surprise vote, Hagood, Burgess, Harvell and Durham voted 4-0 to table the issue. Councilman Otis Scott, attending the meeting in Williamston via the conference call, also voted to table.
To confirm the vote, Town Attorney Lee Cole asked those in Hilton Head for a voice roll call vote which was unanimous.
Mayor Durham told The Journal later that one of the property owners who was considering whether to proceed with the Williamston proposal had decided not to be included.
In the meantime, Pelzer officials rescheduled their special called meeting to hold second reading on their annexation ordinance.
The vote was orginally scheduled to happen during a special called meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (July 20).
The special session was held at 10 a.m. on Saturday (July 18) 2015 at Pelzer Town Hall, 103 Courtney Street.
Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor and Councilmembers Cheryl Beaudreau and Donna Ide approved second and final reading on the ordinance to annex the Pelzer voting precinct.