WINNSBORO — Residents of Jenkinsville, Dawkins, Monticello and the surrounding area turned out Monday night to a called county council meeting, some of whom voiced opposition to the rezoning of property on S.C. 215 in Jenkinsville.
The property purchase by Dr. Stuart Hamilton is contingent upon the land being rezoned from RD-1 Rural Residential to B-1 Limited Business.
During a public hearing, several residents spoke out. Controversy arose when 8.12 acres of land were mentioned as an alternate medical clinic site.
Bruce Wadsworth, president of the Dawkins Community Association, instead wanted the facility built in Dawkins to serve over 100 families he says live in that area. He believed incorrectly that 8.12 acres had been paid for and given to the area by SCE&G.
The land, in fact, was given to the area by SCE&G some 20 years ago in a lease agreement.
“Where it is now is an area designated for that purpose,” he said. “I disagree with Jenkinsville because it is a small area. You can’t combine Jenkinsville with Monticello to make a town. The Blair area is larger and a facility is needed in that area.”
The problem is, according to county officials, a health care facility cannot go on the free parcel. The 8.12 acre parcel that SCE&G gave the county comes with conditions attached to it.
In 2007, a new lease agreement between the county and SCE&G states whereby the lessee “may use the premises only as a recreation site … upon approval by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval and receipt of a federal grant to proceed forward by the lessee, the lessee may additionally use the premises as a medical clinic.”
In the past, Council Chairman David Ferguson, Councilman Kamau Marcharia, County Administrator Phil Hinely and Deputy County Administrator Davis Anderson met with Jeff Archie, vice president of Nuclear Operations, to see about rezoning for medical reasons.
They also met with a SCANA land management representative who told them SCANA could not lease the land for any longer than it had certification on the nuclear plant.
That presents a problem for Hamilton. The grant funding he has received states he needs to either buy property outright or secure at least a 50-year long-term lease. Changing to the lease would require FERC approval.
Hinely said the county has been in negotiations for years for a revised lease agreement on another piece of property that SCE&G owns next to the park by Lake Monticello.
An EMS station and new fire station are planned for that property and it is hoped they will be built there in 2014, but there are still FERC lease agreement holdups there.
For Hamilton, time is of the essence. According to Hinely, Hamilton has 190 days from when he receives the grant to get something going with the medical clinic.
“As a practical matter, the lease concerns take that property off of the table (for Hamilton),” Hinley said. “This is not a bad place for a clinic. Being close to the nuclear plant and Shaw site means they could attract clients for wellness classes.”
Having a clinic on a major thoroughfare was important not only to county council and Hinely but to Hamilton and other county council members.
“The clinic should be put on a thoroughfare, not in the back of a neighborhood (in Dawkins),” Ferguson said. “However, since there are no county funds involved, the county has no say in the matter.”
Hamilton said he did not know of the 8.12 acres from SCE&G prior to the meeting. After the meeting Hamilton said he would be willing to compromise with the disgruntled Dawkins members.
“If they could put (a facility on it) then we could send someone over there twice a week to staff it, assuming there are enough people over there (to make it feasible),” he said.
Still there was much opposition to the location of the clinic, if not the clinic itself. Jeff Schaffer opposed the request that land be rezoned so that Apostle James McBride and trustees of the Praise and Deliverance Temple could sell the property to Hamilton.
“There are 38 adults and eight children in Jenkinsville,” he said. “There is no need for a health center to be there.”
Instead he favored a clinic placed closer to a more densely populated area, such as the Dawkins area. He noted the curve on which the proposed clinic would sit and about the increased traffic that would come when new nuclear plants went online in the future. That traffic could be a hindrance to the elderly, according to Schaffer.
Hamilton said he was troubled by the controversy.
“This is an amazing gift to Western Fairfield County,” Hamilton said. “We are a not for profit and there is no mortgage.”
Hamilton said the not-for-profit facility would charge fees on a sliding scale so no one who needed health care would be turned away. Hamilton and his organization are one of 27 national winners for a grant that would be used to build a replacement facility for temporary quarters being used by a clinic currently off Meadow Lake Drive that leaks and is structurally deficient.
Since the nonprofit is considered a private business as a 501(c)3 and since the county is not contributing any funds for the project, the only say the county really has in the matter is the zoning of the property. Third and final reading of the zoning takes place Monday night at the council meeting. Residents say they will “turn out in force” to voice their concerns once again.
In other business, second readings passed unanimously for ordinances 611 and 612 which would rezone two other parcels within the county. Third and final reading will occur for them at the Monday meeting as well.