The Voice FOI’s the missing Richland County PC minutes

COLUMBIA – As Richland County planning staff pushes the planning commission and county council to fast track an unpopular mass rezoning plan for the entire unincorporated area of the county, much information has not been transparent to the public – most noticeably, the minutes from many of the planning commission meetings, as far back as three years.

Council members, planning commission members and citizens have all asked staff multiple times for the minutes of the meetings to be posted.

Some of the missing minutes – dating as far back as 2019 – have not even been approved, including those from the crucial June 14, 2021 meeting when the planning commission recommended the new Land Development Code amendments to council. Most of this year’s minutes have not been approved or made public.

“The delay in providing minutes is a violation of the law,” according to Media Attorney Jay Bender, who represents the South Carolina Press Association, of which The Voice is a member. “Minutes do not become minutes when they are approved by the body, but when they are prepared.” 

On Sept. 12, The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request to Geonard Price in the Richland County Department of Planning and Zoning.

On Sept. 16, a Richland County ombudsman responded that The Voice would have to pay $39.66 to search for non-exempt documents responsive to The Voice’s request. A non-refundable deposit of twenty-five percent ($9.91) of the total cost is required to be made before the search is conducted. The entire $39.66 would be due prior to picking up the documents.

Section 30-4-90(b) of the Code of Laws, the section dealing with minutes of meeting of public bodies states: “(a) All public bodies shall keep written minutes of all of their public meetings”, and (b) “The minutes shall be public records and shall be available within a reasonable time after the meeting except where such disclosures would be inconsistent with Section 30-4-70 of this chapter [executive session]”

Richland County planning official Geonard Price says the delay is due to an issue with converting the file and the program the county uses.

After multiple requests for the minutes to be posted, Price added “approve minutes from previous meetings” to the June 6, 2022 agenda. But there were no dates as to the meetings that were to be approved and the draft minutes were not included in the agenda packet.

During that meeting, the planning commission approved minutes, but during discussion of the action item, the commissioners stated that they were approving the April 4, 2022 (regular meeting) minutes and that Price only gave them a partial transcript of the April 1, 2022 work session.

No minutes have been posted for the entire year of 2022, including the June 6 meeting, leaving the public in the dark about what was approved at that meeting for the mass rezoning. In addition, the meeting agenda for the May 9, 2022 work session was never posted to the county’s website.

The following minutes are missing from the planning commission’s ‘Agendas, Minutes & Report of Actions’ online page:


  • Feb. 7, 2022
  • March 7, 2022
  • April 1, 2022 – Special Called Meeting (Election of Officers)
  • April 1, 2022 – Work Session
  • April 4, 2022
  • May 9, 2022 – Work Session
  • May 18, 2022 – Work Session
  • June 6, 2022
  • June 6, 2022 – Work Session
  • July 11, 2022


  • May 3, 2021
  • June 7, 2021
  • June 14, 2021 – Special Called Meeting (Approval of LDC recommendations to Council)
  • July 12, 2021
  • October 4, 2021
  • November 1, 2021


  • June 1, 2020
  • December 7, 2020


  • April 1, 2019
  • July 1, 2012

Why Are Minutes Withheld?

Blythewood’s county council representative Derrek Pugh said county staff was not aware that the minutes were not posted to the website, and that it is following up with the outside company that posts the minutes.

“All minutes are recorded and any approved minutes will be posted by the end of the year,” Pugh told The Voice. “Minutes not being posted in a timely manner is an unacceptable practice and we will take every step to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Many residents see the failure to produce the minutes as part of the broad zoning revamp that would result in significant impacts to their individual properties and property values as well as impacts to their surrounding areas.

Chapin resident Kim Murphy, who attends most of the meetings on the rezoning, says the rezoning as originally proposed would upzone en masse large portions of unincorporated Richland County to higher densities.

Along with changes to permitted or restricted uses, Murphy says the proposal includes assigning newly-revised zoning classifications that would allow multi-family, tri-plexes, quad-plexes and mobile homes in neighborhoods developed with traditionally constructed single-family residences.

The new Land Development Code also gives incentives to developers by exempting them from environmental hoops, and if the proposed mass rezoning process is approved, few rezonings would go before county council as they do now, and county council would lose much of the authority it has to manage growth through the zoning process now in place.

Currently, the planning commissioners are holding meetings and work sessions to develop a list of changes to the proposed zoning classifications that they will eventually recommend to council for approval, along with a new zoning map reflecting those zoning classification changes.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]