Blythewood Academy Goes Historic

Utroska Rebuts ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Comment

BLYTHEWOOD (Dec. 22, 2016) – Town Council Monday night gave the final OK to an ordinance approving use of the Doko Meadows athletic fields by the YMCA, as well as to an ordinance designating the interiors of the Blythewood Academy gym and auditorium as historic sites.

While the former sailed through with only minor technical changes, the latter was a somewhat different matter.

“I’ll reiterate what I said last time: I think we’re setting a dangerous precedent,” Councilman Tom Utroska said before Council voted on the historical designations. “I don’t understand what’s so historical about the interiors of these buildings. Did something happen? Did Martin Luther King give a speech here inside of this gym? I’m not being facetious. I really don’t know, other than somebody went to school there and wants to save the interior, I guess.”

Mayor J. Michael Ross said the Blythewood Historical Society and the Board of Architectural Review had both been actively pursuing the designation for the interior of the buildings, while the Richland 2 School District also gave its blessing to the move.

“If Richland School District 2 would have come up and said they did not want this, then I would not be supporting this,” Ross said. “But if they’re OK with it and they will work with our Historical Society and BAR, then I do not see a problem.”

Councilman Malcolm Gordge pointed out that the Society intends to use the buildings, “so it’s another resource for the Town,” he said.

The measure passed 4-1 with Utroska casting the lone dissenting vote.

The ordinance also changes the classifications of both buildings from Class II to Class I structures.

The ordinance granting a license to the YMCA for the use of the Doko Meadows athletic fields passed unanimously, but with a few minor changes from its first reading.

Town attorney Jim Meggs said the Town had added a $15 an hour charge for excessive use, had made the rest room facilities inside the Manor off limits and had designated specific parking areas for field use.

Town Administrator Gary Parker said the YMCA intends to use the fields on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m., and on Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

A Rebuttal

Monday’s meeting opened with a lengthy statement from Utroska in response, he said, to comments during Council’s Nov. 28 meeting made by Cobblestone Park residents angry with developer D.R. Horton’s plans to drop 143 new homes on what was promised to be perpetual green space.

“Some of the residents took exception to the fact that then-councilman Mangone and I lived in Cobblestone Park and did not recuse ourselves from the decision-making process, even though we sought and received an opinion to the contrary from the S.C. Ethics Commission,” Utroska said, reading from a prepared statement. “Speaking for myself, I think the complaints are totally off base. Had we recused ourselves without due cause, the same citizens would no doubt be complaining that we failed to perform our public duties.”

Utroska specifically addressed comments from Joe Lupia, who asked during the Nov. 28 meeting what the Town of Blythewood had received in return for the additional homes.

“I have no earthly idea how or why anyone would make such a statement as this, especially as it has no basis in fact,” Utroska said. “None. None whatsoever. As far as I know, his accusation is utter nonsense and completely false. I can only surmise it was spoken in the heat of the moment due to frustration and due to lack of facts.”