Planning Commission Outlines Strengths, Weaknesses

BLYTHEWOOD – As the first part of developing a comprehensive plan for goals and objectives, the Planning Commission on May 4 hashed out a Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis on local economic and commercial development. A similar analysis will follow for land use, according to Commission Chairman Malcolm Gordge, and both SWOTs will then be compiled in a report for recommendations to Town Council.

With Weaknesses and Threats outweighing Strengths and Opportunities by about 12-10, the seven-member Commission compiled the following list:


• Zero Property Taxes. “Which is great for business,” Gordge said, “not so good for the Town.”

• Doko Meadow and the Manor. “It certainly should be considered under the umbrella of economic and commercial development,” Gordge said, “because that’s what we want it to be, we want it to be a revenue generator.”

• Quality of Blythewood Schools.


• Present Number of Rooftops to Support Commercial Activities. “We need more rooftops,” Gordge said. “The more people there are, the greater the market, the greater the business potential.”

• Code enforcement; hospitality fees on businesses; lack of an aggressive plan for economic development; no boutique hotel; poor signage; and no ‘town look’ rounded out the list of weaknesses.


• Available Land. According to Gordge, the Blythewood area has just under 1,000 acres of land available for economic development. “That’s a pretty sizable chunk of land that’s waiting for someone to do something with,” he said.

• Maximize and Expand Festivals. “That sounds small, but it’s not,” Commissioner Don Sanders said. “This past weekend, Fort Mill had their Strawberry Festival, had 65,000 people. Every year it grows and grows. It’s a huge revenue generator.”

Also included among the Opportunities were potential grant dollars for economic development and the Town’s long-term Town Center plan. The quality of the local schools also made its second appearance on the SWOT under Opportunities, and Commission Michael Switzer later added the exploration of bond money to accelerate local street improvements to which Richland County is now committed.


• Insufficient Funds. “That’s crucial,” Gordge said. “We can’t do anything if we don’t have any form of revenue stream that we rely on more and more to expand.”

Switzer noted that the Town was, however, in a strong financial position with more than $1 million in its reserves, but Town Administrator Gary Parker pointed out that the Town did not know how long that would last.

“Because we don’t know what the General Assembly might do next year (in regards to the local revenue fund),” Parker said.

“A lot of our money comes from the hospitality tax and other kinds of things,” Commissioner Ernestine Rogers said, “and then they (General Assembly) decide we’re not going to let this little small town have control over that money, we’re going to move that to our control. So we don’t have – I hate to use that four-letter word – a tax base.”

• Nonchalant Council. “I wasn’t saying we have one,” Switzer said, “I’m just saying if we did it would be bad to have Council people who didn’t care, who weren’t really motivated or paying attention. We have, I think, three people up for election this November, so that’s something that should be on everybody’s radar.”

• Completion of Plans to Revitalize Roads. “For what it’s worth I can confirm that all of the improvements we wanted in the Town Center District are now formally on the Richland County project plan,” Gordge said. Those include Creech, McNulty and Blythewood roads, Gordge said, as well as Wilson Blvd.

• Perception of Developers that Blythewood is Hard to Deal With. “I can give you specifics, but it doesn’t have any value, because perception is reality,” Sanders said. “It’s across the board that nobody wants growth up here.”

Also included on the list of Threats was lack of economic development.

As the session wound down, Switzer extrapolated on why he had included poor signage and the lack of a boutique hotel among his contributions. Switzer said the Manor would be an ideal place for corporate retreats, but Blythewood did not offer any “corporate-type hotels.”

As for signage, Switzer said beyond the signs posted at the I-77 off-ramp, there were no further signs within the town to direct visitors to the park or other attractions.

“We do now have a Visitor’s Center sign, sometimes blocked by a State Farm sign, but there is no direction to go to the park,” Switzer said, “except what’s at the interstate. How long are they going to drive around before they find it?”

Parker said the Town had two signs on order, one to be placed at the intersection of Blythewood Road and Main Street and the other near the off-ramp at I-77 and Blythewood Road, both directing visitors to the park.


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