Council retreat set for March; Mayor invites community

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council’s annual day-long working retreat may be a little larger than usual this year, and a little different. Mayor J. Michael Ross said on Monday that he and Council are making an all-out effort to include resident participation in this year’s event.

“The public has always been invited to our retreats,” Ross said. “But not many of them ever attend. This year, we want them to attend. Even if they cannot come for the whole day, maybe they can set some time off in that day to stop by and let their voices be heard. We can’t do what the people want if we don’t hear from them and know what they want,” he said.

The retreat will be held on Saturday, March 10 at Doko Manor. The day will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until approximately 4 p.m. or until all items on agenda have been addressed.  This year will be somewhat different as an emphasis will also be on citizen involvement.

That involvement will be an item on the Jan. 24 agenda, Ross said.

“We’re going to look at including a citizen comment section after each discussion item during the retreat. And, as always,” Ross said, “there will be ample time during the meeting for open citizen comment, so whether a citizen comes for morning session or afternoon session they will be encouraged to engage with council.”

As further accommodation for citizen involvement, Council is arranging a community lunch from 12 noon – 1 p.m.

“We’re asking our local restaurants to help us out with a ‘taste of Blythewood,’ luncheon that day,” Ross said. “We want to sit and eat together and talk about the next year and five, even 10 years of ideas for the future of Blythewood.”

While residents are encouraged to contact Town Hall with any subjects they would like to be discussed by Council at the retreat, Council has already sketched out a preliminary list of topics.

“We’re going to talk about the plan of Columbia and Richland County to form a consolidated government and what that will mean for us,” Ross said. “It might be beneficial to our 29016 Blythewood neighbors to annex into the Town so they can vote and to pre-empt Columbia and Richland County’s plan that could possibly force the annexation of those neighbors into Columbia,” Ross said.

He also wants to talk about creating a new baseball/softball complex in the Town to host tournaments.

“Blythewood has some of the best players and coaches in the country, as evidenced by our recent State Championships and World Series successes,” Ross added. “The fact that they are training/playing on fields built in 1979-1980 should embarrass us all.”

“The Planning Commission will soon be updating the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for our community,” Ross said. “This could include any insights we have from the Central Midlands Council of Governments regarding the realignment of Blythewood Road and Langford Road and maybe some renderings of what McNulty Road could look like after the Penny widening projects are completed.”

Ross said the list also includes discussing a multi-use trail plan and a vending stand ordinance.

“Another thing may be pre-budget development for some proposed budget items/projects that some members of the community would like to see come to fruition,” Ross said.

Another topic that Ross suggested might be on the table for discussion is an economic development report on potential development of businesses on Blythewood Road vacant lots.

“We just want folks in the community to make plans to join us. Let us know you’re coming so we’ll know how to plan. But please attend,” Ross said. “We’ll be shaping the next year and years to come.”

Members of the community can email their ideas for discussion topics to townofblythewoodsc.gov or call Town Hall at 803-754-0501 and ask to speak to Julie Emory.