Fairfield County Council held a public hearing Monday night to discuss the possible rezoning of land on Toatley Road from RD, Rural Resource District, to a B-1, limited business district.
Al Stevenson presented the case on behalf of his brother Melvin Stevenson, owner of the 7.47 acre property at 44 Toatley Road, who was unable to attend the meeting.
The proposed facility was to be a satellite office of Dr. Karen Williams, Williams Counseling Center in Charlotte, N.C. which has been in business since 2007 and currently treats around 85 students in the Mecklenberg area.
The organization is a nonprofit and Williams has a contract with Medicaid to provide those services to youth. Williams, a native of Winnsboro, had an office here until she lost state funding and had to close in the mid 2000s.
The proposed service was for youths age five to 18 to provide at risk young people with preventative counseling, communication skill development and social skills development to help impoverished youth gain life skills. Clients could come from school district or charter school referrals.
Stevenson said outpatient services such as those had been offered in the Charlotte area and that they would be provided by Dr. Karen Williams who is from Fairfield County
The facility would have served three to four youth at a time.
Issues raised included whether offered services would duplicate existing services other agencies already provide youth.
Residents expressed concern that the business would be detrimental to their neighborhood by bringing troubled youth in close proximity to isolated homes.
Other concerns included the variety of future businesses that could one day use the sight, should the counseling center close.
According to Fairfield County Director of Planning, Building and Zoning Ron Stowers, the are 71 different uses for land that has been zoned B-1 and the land remains zoned B-1 even if the business there closes.
“We have to also look past the initial thing it might be, because the (property zoning change) could turn into other things,” Fairfield County Council Chairman David Ferguson said.
Councilman Kamau Marcharia questioned the safety argument, noting that council approved a zoning change to an old wood yard within walking distance of the Toatley Road site even though residents opposed that change last year citing potential environmental dangers.
He compared the inherent danger in trying to weigh this in terms of the danger noted when it comes to helping three youth.
When it came time to vote on first reading of the proposal, Marcharia made a motion in favor of the change, but in a rare move there was no second from a council member. The issue died at that point.
Per council procedure a proposed ordinance faces three readings.
At the first level, the ordinance is approved by title only, meaning there is no debate or discussion on the issue.
Then county council has opportunity, if the first reading passes, to meet and discuss issues pertinent to said ordinance and then to hold a second reading on the ordinance. Open discussion and dialogue take place during the third and final reading of an ordinance as well.
“Most things get by the first reading, but not always,” Chairman Ferguson said.
Marcharia expressed dismay that preventative care for youth was rejected by county council, citing the litany of problems facing youth in Fairfield County such as a high rate of absentee fathers and lack of recreation in rural areas as reason council should have been for the business.
In other news, Joe Barkevich updated council on improvements within the last year at the Fairfield County Airport.
Cracked bituminous asphalt circa 1989 received an overlay which was approved in 2009. The design costs were $216,000 but in 2011 Fairfield received a $2.7 million grant from the FAA and the county added $74,500 which was matched by the state.
Fixing the runway prevents loose foreign objects or debris from hitting planes and causing damage. Barkevich reported on a five year capital improvement plan and said a $122,000 FAA grant for improving the runway safety area should be coming through soon for the county.
A terminal area study, a new access road and new hangers are some proposals being considered.
Enhancing the approaches during poor visibility conditions is another step needed to make the airport suitable for corporate aircraft and turn it into an economic engine for county business recruitment.
“Council has plans looking out several years… if there is any money left over our team has done a good job to get greater than $2million in grant money, Fairfield County Administrator Phil Hinely said. “(this is an area where we can) invest a little bit and get big rewards.”
Ninety-seven percent of the projects funded by the grant money this year required a five percent contribution by the county.
“The airport helps lure business to the county. It is a pretty big investment tool for us,” Ferguson said.