Richard Greer, of State Investors, who became a familiar figure as he pursued investments and the development of the Saluda riverfront in Piedmont, Pelzer and Williamston over recent years, passed away this past weekend. He had suffered from serious cardiac issues over the last few years.
In 2017, Greer was brought in to help the Pelzer Heritage Commission develop the Upper and Lower Mill properties, which had been undergoing Brownfields cleanup activities.
At the time, Greer said the first phase of planned development would include two or three commercial and light industrial facilities and future development was expected to include residential parcels, administrative and research property and a riverfront trail and park.
Larry Coker of the Pelzer Heritage Commission said, “PHC members and myself were saddened on the passing of Richard Greer of Upstate Investors. We have been working with Richard for three years on different projects in Pelzer. Although things never seem to work out on these projects for different reasons.”
Coker added, “Richard Greer put a lot of time and effort into Pelzer. He spent many hours of his own time working with Pelzer on getting their budget straightened out and other projects. He was also involved in other projects in Pelzer and Williamston. Richard Greer was a friend of mine and we spoke very often about how his health was deteriorating and slowing him down. He wanted the best for Pelzer and always told me that Pelzer comes first. We all will miss him dearly.”
More recently, Greer had worked tirelessly to put together developments situated along the riverfront in Piedmont, where a residential/retail development is in its early stages.
The Piedmont segment, which will be largely residential, is essentially at the mercy of the permitting process overseen by SCDHEC and the EPA. The site will also include a launch and recovery facility for kayaks and canoes; conditions that put the project squarely within the oversight of both state and federal agencies concerned with navigable waters. One actor that may ease the strictures of the process is the size of the craft that will access the river, or the Saluda Blueway corridor. The boats will be almost exclusively kayaks, and canoes with perhaps some smaller craft such as john boats.
“The Saluda Blueway corridor is an essential element of this plan, and we want to take advantage of the fact that this isn’t the Reedy River. We have three active dams in a very short stretch of river course. I doubt you would find three dams in such a short run anywhere else in the Southeast. And the beauty of it is the unspoiled nature along the way. We have trees and forest land and vistas. Those elements define the very nature of this extraordinary location,” said Greer.
The Pelzer segment of the Saluda Falls project was to be largely commercial and retail, with plans in the works for the lower mill site in particular. “We expect to make a major announcement about the lower mill location within the next thirty to sixty days”, said Greer, at the time. The upper site holds more promise for light industrial and commercial use, while the lower dam area in Williamston also appears best suited for residential use. Recent actions by the Pelzer town council to adopt various county ordinances as their own, thereby allowing county law enforcement more sway in the area, have encouraged both Greer’s company as well as potential investors.
Continuing discussions about the future of the town’s utilities, such as their water and sewer systems, are also cause for optimism. “Much of the hard work has been done. We have people interested in providing the capital for these future projects in Pelzer, and now steps are being taken to insure that those investments would be viable. An increased law enforcement presence would be a welcome development.”
Greer played an integral part in starting the process of evaluating and assessing the town’s water and sewer systems, by introducing Goldie and Associate to the process, after Pelzer severed their joint operations arrangement with West Pelzer.
For all his efforts, Greer could never quite crack the nut that is Pelzer. Serious differences in the various visions that existed for the town, as well as considerable unpredictability in the political leadership, as the town experienced major changes in the makeup of the town administration, made assembling the elements of a deal difficult, and ultimately, impossible. Some elements envisioned an approach focused more on the town’s future growth, while others preferred commemorating and securing the town’s history.
Add to that difference in viewpoint the resignation of Councilwoman Olene Bear, the defeat of Councilman Will Ragland, who would later return to the council and is now the current mayor; the resignation of then Mayor Roger Scott due to serious and ultimately terminal, health issues, and Greer was simply unable to establish any real momentum.
In his efforts to do so, Greer became involved in the city’s planning operations to an unusual, if not unprecedented, level. In 2018, he assumed the role of unpaid advisor to the town council.
In a highly unusual proceeding on June 1, a Friday afternoon, the Pelzer town council met with representatives of the Goldie & Associates engineering firm; as well as Greer, and voted to hire Goldie & Associates (G&A) to operate the town’s water and sewer systems for a four month period, at a cost of $8600 per month.
The special called meeting was held at the town hall at four o’clock Friday afternoon, just hours before Goldie was scheduled to assume responsibility for the town’s public works operations. While the meeting was described as a special called meeting, one of three categories established by the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (SCFOIA), the actions taken prior to and during the meeting were justified by town attorney Jimmy King, who described the situation as an emergency.
Among those actions, which were questioned by the reporter from The Journal, was the inclusion of developer Richard Greer in the twenty four minute executive session held prior to the vote to accept the proposal. Goldie and Associates had apparently already been informed of the decision early enough to provide its operating license information to the town on the day prior to the vote. When Greer’s inclusion in the closed session was challenged, town attorney King stated that Greer has been providing “financial advice” to the town.
When asked if the job as financial adviser had been advertised, King and Mayor Scott both said that Greer hasn’t been charging the town for the advice, implying that such an informal association wasn’t bound by contractual requirements, or to be perceived as a possible conflict of interest. Greer, a representative of Upstate Investors, is involved in efforts to bring investment to the area.
The SCFOIA establishes three categories of meetings. The regular scheduled meeting is intended to regularly address the routine operations of the town. A special called meeting, which Friday’s meeting was, addresses a specific issue; one which carries no real urgency with it. They are often called in order to squeeze a required reading of an ordinance into a tight time frame, such as a budget. The emergency meeting is intended to address time sensitive matters, such as the expiration of the agreement with West Pelzer, which the Pelzer council voided last month
He recently was also involved in a project that is in its very early stages in Williamston. The project would involve creating a micro brewery, dining and some retail locations at the old city water treatment plant. Mayor Mack Durham, when contacted for a comment on the possible impact of Greer’s death on the future of the project, was unsure. “This is quite a shock to me and to the town. Richard was an important part of putting this deal together,” said Durham.
Developer Chris Paulson was working with Greer and is the major investor and developer for the project, which would represent a major advance in the dining and hospitality scene in Williamston.
Mayor Durham stated that Paulson, despite expressing sense of shock and loss at Greer’s passing, reaffirmed his intention to proceed with the project.