Master Plan presents interesting ideas for future of Pelzer

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By Stan Welch
A crowd of approximately fifty people were on hand Tuesday night to hear the results of a three month planning exercise intended to produce a master plan for Pelzer. Steve Newton, of Anderson County, and Tee Coker, of MKSK Consultants, led the presentation. Also on hand was Mayor Roger Scott, who has been battling health issues since the first of the year.
After a reminder by Newton that the nature of the report is simply to offer ideas for consideration, Coker took the floor. He reminded them that the town exists because of its proximity to the Saluda River, and reasserted the value of that resource to the town. A main element of the plans presented focused on improving access to the river, for both boating and riverbank activities.
He stressed that ninety seven per cent of the three miles of riverfront in town limits is owned by either the town, the Pelzer Heritage Commission, or Enel, the company that generates power from the river. He stated that such a circumstance greatly simplifies plans to utilize the river as both a recreational and a business resource.
He also pointed out that Pelzer, while having a unique heritage, is not an island. “You are one of many vibrant communities in the area. Greenville is growing by leaps and bounds, and it is coming this way. People will continue to move into this area. The issue is whether you want to make decisions on what your town becomes, or leave it to others who may not value your history as much.”
He presented graphics depicting possible uses of existing features, such as the water tower and the old hospital. He also showed a representation of the business district just west of the dam, and reported that some of the individual business owners had begun exploring possible aesthetic improvements to their properties.
One intriguing proposal included the creation of a town square in the area between the gymnasium and the old hospital. Called Smyth Square, the area would provide a focal point for community activities, such as concerts or outdoor productions by the Mill Town Players. “This is a relatively low cost project that could provide a true small town feeling,” said Coker.
He spoke of creating a new legacy that would preserve the character of the town, build a sense of community, and that would include everyone. To that end, he suggested the idea of low cost senior housing near the upper mill site, as well as a common garden site. He spoke of a company called Mill Village Farms that actually operates such enterprises and markets the produce. He referred to the importance of letting the elderly ‘age in place’, rather than being consigned to various facilities.
The usual references were made to commercial opportunities at the lower mill site, but he also mentioned a possible solar farm on some of the town’s property “The revenue from a lease on such a site would be substantial, and sustainable for the town.” He also spoke about restoring the biodiversity of the riverine ecology, but conceded that would be a long term project.
In the short term, he spoke about a one hundred day action plan that would involve some smaller, less expensive actions. Newton then took the floor again to assure the crowd that there is a lot of grant money available for some of the projects suggested. “Duke Power and any number of other corporations would be interested in funding some of these ideas. As to the senior housing, I can name dozens of developers who would jump at the chance to get involved. These are not pie in the sky ideas. They are doable. And the county stands ready to assist the town of Pelzer if your leadership decides to move forward on any of these ideas.”