Monday, February 9, 2009

Here's what the annexation bill does and doesn't do

Bluggton Today - February 9, 2009

It was a brutal week for us in the public service business. Probably not too different from your week, either. It’s tough all over.

We had over 400 calls and contacts at the legislative offices this week, many having to do with my annexation bill. People are concerned that they will be absorbed into a municipality against their will, and without a chance to vote on the matter.

My friend Paul McCue is circulating a petition that reflects that fear, and almost 70 signatures have been gathered as of this writing.

My bill, as currently written, does none of the things the petition seeks to avoid. It does not allow a municipality to annex residential property without giving the owners an opportunity to vote. What it does is support a common-sense approach to planning by making it prohibitively difficult for tract housing developers to come into an area and pit the different jurisdictions against one to get the best zoning deal, aka "zoning shopping".

It supports the comprehensive planning process by preventing the counties from having to deal with unanticipated changes to the areas for which they are responsible, which usually also wrecks rational revenue forecasting.

What needs to be made plain, however, is that bills in the legislature are living documents that go through a certain refinement and evolution as they navigate the process. My job, as the author and chief sponsor, is to shepherd and protect the bill so that the original intent of the bill is not distorted or diluted by either my colleagues in the house, or by amendments or rewrites in the senate, or offending compromises that may occur in conference committee if there are significant differences in the house and senate versions of the legislation.

I will keep you absolutely up to date as the bill progresses.

I had conversations recently with DHEC officials regarding the status of the May River. Like you, I am concerned and anxious over the possibility that the headwaters of the estuary may be closed to shellfishing before next oyster season. However, I am heartened by the response of the town of Bluffton, led by Jeff McNesby and Kim Jones, to this distressing development.

I was particularly pleased to read the very pointed op-ed from my friend, Weston Newton, chairman of Beaufort County Council. His unambiguous support for the restoration effort is exactly in concert with mine. We cannot allow the processes that are diminishing the river to go unchallenged. We also cannot allow the consequences of development to ruin the natural resources that are the very heart and soul of our community.

Years ago, Weston and I spoke about what I had decided to do with the stormwater system at the Promenade, which was to essentially keep all potential runoff on the property, except for hundred year storms. His take at the time was that it was a good idea that we may have to explore if the current regime proved inadequate. When the chairman says "everything is on the table," I know he means it.

When I say that I will do everything I can to move the state toward doing what is required to return the May River to a pristine condition, I mean it, as well.