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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Is the Recently Passed Hwy 11 Ordinance Misleading the Public?

By now most of you have heard about the Pickens County Council's passage of an ordinance to limit what can and cannot be built on scenic Hwy 11. However, if you are not on Facebook, you may not have read Councilman Alex Saitta's thoughts on the passage of this ordinance, He was the lone NO vote on the passage of the ordinance.

We want to make sure our readers know Councilman Alex Saitta's thoughts.

At Conservatives of the Upstate, our main concern has always been the protection of personal private property rights. We tried to get our County Council to pass a resolution to protect private property rights with over 900 signatures on a petition which the council unanimously thumbed their noses at. We now know think we know why they refused. It seems they knew what they were planning on doing to Hwy 11 property owners, and therefore did not want to sign a pledge to protect those property owners' rights. We find it interesting that to our knowledge not one property owner was given just compensation for restricting the use of their own property for the "common good" of scenic view. 

Below is Councilman Alex Saitta's recent post on Facebook and a screenshot of his recent comment under that post for your review.

"Highway 11:

As you may have read or saw on TV there was a final vote on Highway 11 Monday. The plan does "very little" to protect the highway. As a result, I voted "No" on the plan. Below is what I said before the final vote (see the video too). 

I’m calling this the Highway 11 Land Development Act of 2022. Our section of Highway 11 will be developed, sadly and will end up looking like Oconee’s Highway 11 in time. 

The council had 4 choices on this: a) do nothing, b) do very little, c) do not enough or d) do what is required to keep the highway as is -- scenic and beautiful. 

This plan does “very little”, as it allows manufacturing, commercial and subdivisions development all along the highway. Really, it just controls the look of those things.

The dollar stores will come. They will just have to look like a tree. In time, you’ll see storage warehouses, they’ll just have to look like the side of a mountain. 

If you went to the meetings or talked to those who live on the highway, a large majority do not want new commercial, new manufacturing or new subdivisions on the highway.  
If you read the ACOG report it stated, “Almost all the feedback received did not support any type of manufacturing development along the corridor.” Yet that is in this plan.  

Their Plan: 
There are 4 primary reasons I oppose the plan:  
1) It allows light manufacturing along the highway. Light manufacturing is defined as plants up to 200,000 sqf in size, and no more than 500 employees per shift. As a comparison, Liberty High School is 180,000 feet. Big plants for Pickens County.  

The definition of light manufacturing includes things like wholesale warehouses, carpet or rug plants, and equipment storage yards.  
People will say, that will never ever happen up there. I’m looking out over the next 25 years – we don’t know. 

2) This plan allows commercial development all along Highway 11. And at 6 major intersections, up closer to the road. This would allow a restaurant to be built right across Grant Meadow and Table Rock Mountain, at the corner of Carrick Creek Road. 

Commercial buildings on highway 11 can be as high as 3 ½ stories under this plan. 

3) I have issues with the process and how the public was left behind. For the first year or so, there were public meetings, lots of public input that centered around a plan with a narrow corridor of 660 to 1,000 feet off the centerline. Toward the end, 4 or 5 new proposals were thrown out there by council and the public was left behind. I would bet next to no one knows if they are in this new heritage area or not. 

The way it should work is, take this final plan, hold one or two meetings to formally notice and present it to the public. Had out copies, formally solicit public input and answer questions. Then you vote after that.  

This final plan did not have a formal public notice/ presentation and formal input has not been solicited. That's bad government for something of this scope and size.

4) The 150-foot buffer in the plan is provides next to no additional protections. Aunt Sue’s closest building is more than 150 back. Most commercial buildings you see on the highway now are 150 feet back. Going forward, you are just going to have more and more of them.

My Alternative Plan:
I proposed an alternative plan. 
I did 3 or 4 mailers on Highway 11, knocked doors on Highway 11, chatted with many of the residents on the highway. 

The overwhelming majority of those who live on Highway 11 want to keep the highway as is – scenic. They want no new manufacturing, no new commercial, no new subdivisions and unrestricted residential single lots, in a narrow corridor around the centerline. Existing establishments would be grandfathered in. 
I proposed an alternative plan that was residential only in a +/- 660-foot area around the centerline. It got one vote.

Property Rights:
I heard the property rights arguments. If it wasn't a scenic highway with a national designation, I would agree. But this highway deserves an exception, so I supported putting in land use restrictions.

Plus, the majority of those on Highway 11, those who will be regulated, are willing to give up some of their land use rights to keep the highway scenic. I heard it with my own ears on their doorsteps. 

My proposal was residential only – single lot homes and small subdivisions. Residential only areas are all over the county, the state and country. Very legal. In court, not a violation of landowner rights.   

If you tried to put a dollar store on Glassy Mountain Street in Pickens, you would be denied a permit. If you then sued saying your rights were violated, you’d lose in court.

My plan only regulated 7 square miles of the 512 sq miles in the county. Far more narrow in scope than this plan.

You have to hold on to what you have, because with the way this area is changing, in the end that is all you will have left. We lost our two mountain schools, about to lose your water tower and now give up this Scenic Highway. In 25 years, sadly, we may not recognize this place."

And here is a screenshot of his comment under that post where he questions the news reports about how Hwy 11 is now "protected." 

So, the question remains...are County Council and the news media purposefully misleading the public about the Hwy 11 ordinance? And more importantly, are you happy with the passage of this ordinance? It seems to leadership at COTU that our County Council is assuming the role of a Homeowner's Association and are not being exactly forthcoming with the truth behind these restrictions to the landowners. It seems that they are following the belief that passing something is better than nothing and we will all find out what that ordinance they passed means when things get built or not built on Hwy 11. Looks like we are all going to have to be in a "wait and see" mode, just like when they raised our taxes for the roads being better. 


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