By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Planning Commission will meet Monday night to consider the town’s updated comprehensive plan, assembled by the Anderson County planning department staff. The draft copy of the study is more than fifty pages long, and contains a wealth of demographic, financial, and social data.
Mayor Blake Sanders, in an interview with The Journal, said that the biggest surprise that he found in all of that data was the fact that the median age of the town’s population is getting lower and lower.
“A lot of people, myself included, assume that West Pelzer is a town that is graying, as our population grows older, “said Sanders. “But the fact is that more and more people are moving here and starting families. Another indication of that change is the number of responses we had to our survey that were posted online. That increased use of the digital access probably reflects that lower age.”
The responses on those surveys further indicate a changing population. “People want more shopping and more dining options. They have more disposable income and they want more choices on how to spend it, without having to go somewhere else. They also indicate a lack of tolerance for traditional small town politics. They want to see problems being solved, not squabbled over. The surveys were very informative.”
In recent weeks, in other venues, Sanders has decried the paucity of additional retail and commercial properties available for development in West Pelzer. He has stated that another restaurant will be announced this summer, but he also realizes that space along Main Street is limited. He sees possibilities for more businesses in areas off of Main Street.
“We have some areas, some pockets where retail and commercial enterprises could possibly locate. That will be a process, because we will need public support. We don’t want to alter the nature of our town, even as we try to expand our business community.” One step that will be necessary and that has been slated for action is the reviewing and updating of the town’s ancient zoning ordinance. The planning commission, again with the county’s assistance, will be reviewing that ordinance in the coming months, along with the town’s other ordinances.
Sanders is effusive in his gratitude for the county’s assistance, and for Councilwoman Cindy Wilson’s role in making that assistance possible. As a professional planner and consultant himself, Sanders knows full well the expense of such expertise. “The services and help the county has offered us would have cost easily in the neighborhood of fifty thousand dollars. The county obviously sees benefits to helping smaller municipalities, because it can help create uniformity in many ways across the county. We’re kind of a guinea pig since we are the first town they have done this for, but we are happy guinea pigs.”
Sanders says the study, which focuses heavily on potential uses of land in the town, has identified several smaller tracts of land, between three and five acres, that could support moderate sized stores. In terms of larger tracts that might support bigger enterprises, or substantial residential developments, Sanders said that the town’s recent completion of its sewer upgrades, and the subsequent lifting of a decades old consent order by SCDHEC, has made ReWa amenable to discussing the extension of the town’s sewer lines to some of those larger tracts.
“Since our lines are so new and the old ingress and infiltration problems are resolved, there is a possibility that we could extend our lines to the west, which is where our future growth lies. If we began to see significant residential development, and an increase in our tax base, that would be a very positive development for the town.”
The public hearing on the land comprehensive plan will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday the 19th, followed immediately by a meeting of the planning commission to consider acceptance of the draft document.