Jenkinsville prepares to annex 143 properties

JENKINSVILLE – An annexation vote scheduled for May 1 could literally quadruple the size of Jenkinsville town limits. And chances are most of the affected property owners don’t even know the vote is taking place.

That’s because Jenkinsville is utilizing the “25 percent petition and election method” in state law to annex 143 properties into the town of 46 residents.

Passed in 1988 and enacted in 2000, the 25 percent method would allow annexation of the 143 properties to move forward with only 25 percent of those 143 properties’ owners petitioning the town government. It requires the least amount of public support to pass.

Jenkinsville Mayor Gregrey Ginyard deferred comment about why the 25 percent method was selected to Columbia attorney Christopher Archer, who’s representing the town.Archer couldn’t say why the 25 percent method was chosen, nor could he say exactly how many people signed the petition, only that there was a door-to-door effort to solicit signatures.

“I can’t really speak to the history that much. All I can tell you is that the 25 percent of the names are considered qualified electors,” Archer said. “There was an effort to go door to door to ask them if they were in agreement with the petition.”

Debby Stidham, director of Fairfield County Voter Registration and Elections, said state law doesn’t require Jenkinsville to submit the list of names signing the petition.

“He does not have to give that to me,” Stidham said.

All that’s required is a letter stating the town met the 25 percent threshold. That letter was written March 21. According to the letter, obtained by The Voice, the Jenkinsville Town Council on March 15 adopted a resolution “certifying that a proper petition has been received for annexation of the area described in the resolution,” the document states.

Archer said state law generally doesn’t require notification of individual property owners that they might be annexed into the town. He said that’s accomplished through public notices or media coverage. That notice has appeared twice in The Voice.

“You would be notified by local media,” Archer said.

Exceptions exist for properties greater than 10 acres or if a property exceeds 25 percent of the territory to be annexed. In those cases, qualifying property owners would be notified via certified mail that they could opt out.

Polling will occur at the new Jenkinsville Fire Department at 7104 Highway 215, and polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Only registered voters within the territory proposed for annexation are eligible to cast ballots May 1. Stidham estimated there are at only about 53 eligible voters in the annexation territory, meaning annexation of the 143 properties could pass with as few as 27 votes in favor.

Massive growth

If the annexation is adopted, the town’s geographic boundaries would grow at least fourfold, and its taxable property value would surge by a factor of five, according to Fairfield County property records.

A review by The Voice of the 143 properties on the annexation ballot found they have a cumulative fair market value of $12.3 million. Parcels currently making up the Town of Jenkinsville have a total fair market value of $2,467,200, nearly five times less, land records show.

Ginyard said the annexation effort is not a money grab. Rather, he said growing the town’s population would make it easier for Jenkinsville to attract new businesses.

“We’d like to be able to have a Dollar General and things like that,” Ginyard said. “We’re not trying to be a Columbia, we’re trying to be a community that has a few amenities.”

Jeff Shacker, field services manager for the Municipal Association of South Carolina, said municipalities usually spend new tax revenue from annexation on operations, such as police or parks and recreation. Some towns, however, choose to apply the money toward matching grants, Shacker said.

“Jenkinsville has been pretty successful with that,” Shacker said, citing streetscaping and adding sidewalks as examples. “I’ve talked with Mayor Ginyard about interest in building a new town hall.

“I’m not sure what all the motives are,” Shacker added. “But Fairfield County is a local option sales tax county. That is distributed by and large by population, so any population growth would mean more tax revenue for them.”

Ginyard said there are no specific plans to seek grants, though he didn’t rule out funding more town services.

“Annexation is good for the town because it puts more people into the town. It’s a good thing for everybody,” Ginyard said. “It’s not something that’s going to boost Greg Ginyard. It’s going to boost the town.”

By the numbers

Because a majority of the 143 properties included on the annexation ballot are owned by residents living outside Fairfield County, they will not be eligible to have a vote as to whether their property is annexed into the town.

Only 56 of the parcels, or 39.1 percent, are taxed at the 4 percent assessment that primary property owners pay, property records show. With few exceptions, the rest are taxed at 6 percent, which is what non-residents and residents owning second properties pay.

One parcel on the list is owned by Whitehall AME Church, which has a zero percent assessment. Four other property owners are also assessed at zero percent – Jenkinsville Water Company, Blue Valley Masonic Lodge, Eau Claire Cooperative Health and a fourth parcel whose owner couldn’t be identified.

It’s unclear how much of a windfall annexation would generate for the Town of Jenkinsville. Using other Fairfield County towns as a guide, the financial gain would be substantial. Jenkinsville would reap $25,251 (for properties taxed at 4 percent) and $37,877 (6 percent) in tax revenue if it adopted Ridgeway’s millage rate of 51.3 mills, according to Fairfield County tax formulas. Winnsboro’s millage rate of 38.9 mills would generate between $19,148 and $28,722.

Challenging the vote

Ginyard said the upcoming vote is actually the second attempt to annex the properties that are listed on the May 1 ballot. He said it has always been the intent to annex these properties since the town incorporated in 2008.

If the vote passes, Ginyard hopes to organize a third annexation vote in the future to bring in even more properties.

“What we’re trying to do is to grow the town,” he said. “Once that happens, that opens more doors to do things.”

Only a handful of S.C. towns have used the 25 percent election method, Shacker said, noting Pelzer in Anderson County used it in 2015.

Despite community objections, the Pelzer annexation vote passed 122-106, according to media reports. As a result, the town of Pelzer tripled in size, with several hundred properties added to the tax rolls.

Regardless of how the Jenkinsville vote unfolds, the town council must first conduct a public vote to adopt the annexation election results. That vote, though, can be delayed or halted altogether by petition. For that to happen, the petition would need signatures from only 5 percent of registered voters within the town limits, according to state law.

According to Fairfield County election records, there are 54 registered voters currently in the Town of Jenkinsville, meaning any petition contesting the annexation vote would need only three signature.

State law says that petition must then be submitted within 30 days of the town government publishing the annexation election results. Jenkinsville would then have 30 days to publish a public notice for a second annexation election. But, for a second election, only the 54 registered voters within the Jenkinsville town limits would be voting on the annexation of the 143 properties.

If a second election were held, stopping annexation at that point would likely face an uphill battle.

 

Jenkinsville Annexation map


Related: Notice of Annexation Election