Final vote to rezone Gum Springs property for industry set for July 11

Standing on the property line of their family land, Mike and Margaret Branham worry that the owner of the 400 acres behind them, much of which is clear cut up to their family’s property line, is requesting the county to rezone that 400 acres from rural residential to industrial zoning. | Barbara Ball

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – “It’s been about 20 years since my dad gave an easement across our property for access to a neighboring property.

“My father, Jessie Douglas, didn’t charge for the easement, and he had to do some talking to get all the family members to sign the paperwork,” said Margaret Branham. “But he said it was the neighborly thing to do and he was happy to help out. Everybody signed.”

Sometime around the middle of April this year, trucks and logging equipment rolled along that same easement on her family’s land to access the neighboring 400 acre property, bordered by Gum Springs Road and Devil’s Race Track Road, where they clear-cut much of the land up to the property lines of some of those same family members who signed documents to give that easement 20 years earlier.

 “About two weeks after the clearing was done,” Branham said, “a sign was posted for a rezoning request for the 400 acres where the trees were cut. The request was for county council to vote to change the zoning from RD-1 (Rural Residential District) property to I-1 (Industrial District).

Margaret said it’s a bitter pill for her and her husband Mike to swallow that if the requested rezoning goes through, industry could be moving next door to their family’s land, and now there would be no buffer left to hide it.

“If we had known that was coming, we might have had a chance to try to negotiate for wide tree buffers so, if industry moves next door to us, we would not have to look at it or use our own land to plant tree buffers. But we weren’t given the common courtesy of that chance.”

According to a county staff report, the properties surrounding the neighboring 400 acres are zoned to the west: Rural Residential District (RD-1) and to the east, north and south: Rural Residential (RD-1), Industrial (I-1) and Business (B-2).

While the County Planning Commission voted unanimously against recommending the rezoning of the 400 acres, that vote fell on deaf ears for the most part. Council has since passed two of three required readings and held a public hearing. The neighbors whose properties circle the 400 acre property that is seeking rezoning came to those meetings and spoke out, pleading for council not to vote for the rezoning which they fear will destroy their peaceful, rural way of life.

Every vote cast was to approve the rezoning except for two –Councilmen Douglas Pauley and Clarence Gilbert voted against.

The third and final vote is set for Monday night, July 11. (see meeting details below.)

Zachariah Willoughby, project manager for the Fairfield County Economic Development office told The Voice Tuesday that, although much of the buffer area bordering neighboring properties has already been clear cut, when a property is rezoned industrial, the county requires nine-foot buffer zones and some up-scale landscaping.

Asked if that would be enough to shield surrounding properties from the industrial facilities, Willoughby said the county can place some additional buffer restrictions over and above what the codes require.

“Our goal would be so that the residents wouldn’t be able to see the industrial site, If it’s a deal that comes through our office, that the county is working on, we can require the industry to provide some additional lower growth and vegetation buffering,” Willoughby said.

That information has not so far been offered by members of council, and the neighboring property owner has not been present at any of the meetings concerning the rezoning of the property.

“We’re going to put a presentation together to show buffers that we would require for development,” Willoughby said. But he said he isn’t sure whether that additional buffering requirement would be included in next Monday’s vote or later when the industry acquires the property.

“We’ll be looking at this on Monday,” he said.

“At this point,” Margaret Branham told The Voice, “we’ve all fought hard, and I’m not giving up. But I don’t trust, at this point, that council is going to listen to us. I think they have their minds made up.

“But there is something I hope,” Margaret Branham said. “I hope the county provides privacy for my family’s land and my neighbors’ properties, a wide enough buffering, at least 100 feet, so that we won’t have to live with the industry when it comes.”

The final vote on the rezoning will be taken on July 11, in council chambers at the new county government complex, 350 Walnut Street in Winnsboro. The public will be allowed to address the rezoning request  at the beginning of the meeting.


  1. Marcus Polk says

    Fairfield County Council – “We Know What’s Best For You!”

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