Rezoning Passes Without a Fight

FAIRFIELD – The army of Western Fairfield County residents opposed to the rezoning of land on Highway 215 in Jenkinsville for a new healthcare clinic, while visible and vocal at County Council’s special called meeting Feb. 18, did not turn out Monday night to make one final stand against the ordinance, which County Council passed without dissent, 7-0.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) did, prior to the vote, attempt to shed light on why Dr. Stuart Hamilton, who applied for the rezoning and who will be directing the Eau Claire Health Clinic, was not made aware of other properties, properties opponents of the rezoning said last week he could have had for free.

“There appears to be a lot of confusion around that zoning,” Marcharia said. “Some of the folks in my community want to know why I didn’t inform Dr. Hamilton about other land. It was a failure of communication between the Council of letting the doctor know and other community members know there was other land available. I came up with three people, and one particular person was willing to donate the land, but after the fact.”

Marcharia said Council had initially been in talks with Richland Health Center, but when they went into bankruptcy they left behind a $100,000 lien on their property.

“That certainly eliminated us from that,” Marcharia said. “Within the last two months it became obvious the County was under no circumstance going to buy that land due to bankruptcy. At that time, we received notice from Dr. Hamilton that he was applying for the ordinance to put the health center on 3.7 acres of land, and he presented it to council. Let it be clear, it was a government grant and that grant could only be placed on property that was not leased but purchased.”

Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said Council made every effort to purchase the original piece of property.

“We had been after it for about nine months, but weren’t able to pull the trigger on it,” Ferguson said. “Every time I inquired about it, it was kind of a moving target. Come to find out that moving target was because they were in bankruptcy, and I was not being told the entire truth the whole time I was dealing with that property. At that time, Council backed off of it because that was not a reasonable and plausible way to spend taxpayers’ money.”

A month after that deal fell through, Ferguson said, Dr. Hamilton appeared on the scene touting a federal grant that would build and equip the facility. All Hamilton required from Council was a rezoning ordinance, from RD-1 (Rural Residential) to B-1 (Limited Business), on property he had located just south of 8991 Highway 215, owned by the Trustees for the Praise and Deliverance Temple.

“I hate there’s a controversy over the way this thing’s going,” Ferguson said, “but I’m not sad we’re getting out of a portable building and getting into a healthcare facility that looks like a healthcare facility.”

Last week, residents of the Dawkins and Blair communities spoke before Council, urging them to reject the rezoning.

Marshal Windham, one such resident, said last week, “I don’t understand the motivation for moving a health facility from a more densely populated area to a more sparsely populated area. There are more people in the Blair area than in Jenkinsville.”

“We were granted 8.12 acres on Meadowlake Drive to have a doctor’s office put there,” Bruce Wadsworth of the Dawkins Community Association said last week. “The land is already cleaned off, it’s already paid for. Jenkinsville is a very small area. The Blair community is very large, and that facility is greatly needed there (in Blair).”

Jeff Schaffer, another Dawkins resident, said last week, “Thirty-eight people in Jenkinsville – 30 adults, eight children – don’t require a healthcare facility. There’s no need for this to be moved and built there.”

Although Schaffer publicly urged more of the community to come and speak out before Monday’s third and final reading, the ordinance passed with no further public input.

Council also passed final reading on an ordinance to update the County’s solid waste management plan, as well as an ordinance to rezone 1 acre at 177 and 179 Meadow Lake Road in Blair from B-2 (General Business) to RD-1, and an ordinance to rezone 1 acre at 394 Hungry Hollow Road in Winnsboro from B-2 to RD-1.

Finally, Council ratified the appointment of Brian B. Bonds (at-large) and the reappointment of Steve Vickers (District 7) to the Behavioral Health Board, as well as the reappointment of Pam Smith (District 3) to the Council on Aging.

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