By Stan Welch
The Pelzer Town Council held a special called meeting Tuesday night to explain the plans for the development of the Pelzer Mill properties and other sites along the Saluda River.
Outgoing Mayor Steve McGregor convened the meeting and immediately yielded the floor to Richard Greer, representative of State Investors, the firm that has contracted with the Pelzer Heritage Commission to develop the upper and lower mill properties.
Greer explained that his firm is responsible for doing the preliminary site work. He then proceeded to outline the various aspects of the five year plan to develop the sites with a focus on mixed uses.
He immediately debunked rumors that the residential areas are slated for Section 8 public housing.
“First of all, my company has no expertise with that type of project,” Greer said. “And secondly, that would be an absolutely terrible use for these properties. There is absolutely no truth to those rumors.”
“We intend to create high end residential areas, and to work to attract light industry as well as commercial and retail interests. It is our intention to eventually attract several hundred good jobs to Pelzer, so that people who live here can work here,” said Greer.
He also paid homage to the town’s extensive history as a textile center, and pointed out that the world’s oldest continuously operating generator of hydroelectric power is still at work at the Pelzer Hydro dam site.
“We are working with General Electric trying to get them to do a nationwide promotion celebrating that fact. We are also in talks with a light industry that we hope will commit to the area in time for us to announce it on December 26. That would be one hundred twenty years to the day since the switch was thrown and that generator began to produce power.”
Another major feature of the plan is the creation of a hiking and biking trail along the river. The trail will be between two and two and half miles long, and will eventually connect with the trail in Williamston, creating a five mile loop.
Greer, as well as several members of the audience, which numbered approximately fifty people, extolled the benefits of the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.
The site of the old dump will be capped and grassed over in order to create a park there. Grants have been obtained to fund that effort. He also hinted at the possibility of a research park at the lower mill site, also mentioning that there are superb commercial opportunities available.
He reassured the crowd that the Heritage Commission has the right of approval for any projects or prospects that might express interest. Concerns about possible noise from some of the light industrial sites were answered by Greer who said that nothing would be approved that would be intrusive on the residential areas located nearby.
When asked about the timetable for all this, Greer pointed out that the plan is a five year plan, but added that the economy is doing well now. “We might achieve our goals faster than we think, or we might achieve additional goals over the same time period,” he said. “I assure you of this. In six weeks, you won’t recognize the lower mill site. We received a bid today, and a good one, to begin cleaning that site up.”
By Stan Welch