It was the second joint meeting between the Powdersville Planning Group and its advisory board at the Powdersville Library. Unlike the first meeting, the meeting room was packed and most in attendance seemed eager to put a stop to the whole plan.
Members of the original Powdersville Planning Group said their goal was to seek ways to improve S.C. 153 and prepare it for the future, but many residents said they believed it had more to do with government control.
Powdersville Water District General Manager Dyke Spencer, the original proponent of the plan to improve 153, started by leading the meeting Friday and had an agenda prepared.
But Powdersville resident Leroy Walls motioned that Cooper be elected chairman of the advisory group, and the motion passed quickly.
Cooper didn’t hesitate to take control of the meeting, although Spencer remained standing the whole time.
Cooper said that during last month’s meeting, the citizens had been told they would be in charge. Cooper said everyone he talked to was concerned about the Powdersville Planning Group’s agenda, and that many worried that it would strip them of their property rights.
“That first meeting that we had at Wren, the whole issue was to control growth,” Cooper said.
Cooper also criticized the water district for having spent money on the original design process.
“What does this have to do with the water company?” he said.
Spencer answered that the water district has a capital improvement budget every year to help prepare for growth, and that since 153 is going to continue to be a high-growth area, the water district will have to continue to provide water for that area.
“It’s a whole lot easier to plan to put water lines in the right place, because otherwise we’re going to be putting water lines everywhere, and that’s a whole lot more expensive,” Spencer said.
Cooper retorted that “it doesn’t take rocket science” to know 153 is growing.
“This whole thing didn’t start about that. … This wasn’t nothing about what was going to come. This was about: we want to control growth. That’s not your job to control growth.”
Spencer answered, “It wasn’t about controlling growth. It was about planning for growth.”
Cooper said Spencer had gone beyond his bounds as water district general manager.
“Your charter is to furnish potable water,” Cooper said. “It’s not to control growth, and worry about affordable housing and transportation. That has nothing to do with the water company.”
Powdersville resident Jim Wilson said there are already government agencies in place to provide for transportation funding.
“All we need is one more bureaucratic government operation to keep our eyes on,” said Wilson. “I don’t know about y’all, but I can’t afford any more help.”
Cooper then made a motion to “suspend the project and these meetings indefinitely,” and hands went up all around the room, as the vast majority seemed in favor of scrapping the plan.
However, a few in the crowd of about 75 people supported the Powdersville Planning Group’s goal.
Powdersville resident Joyce Holcombe argued that she was worried about the traffic in the area, especially near the schools.
“I’m interested in the traffic flow on 153, because it’s horrendous,” she said. “And I’ve got a 15-year-old who’s getting his driving license, and I’m concerned for his safety.”
Several in attendance answered that they weren’t worried about traffic in the area.
Cooper said Powdersville has grown fine without zoning or incorporation.
Business owner Sean Thornton said he would rather someone “do something” to improve 153 and prepare for the future rather than do nothing.
Powdersville resident Gerald Taylor responded, “We’re doing fine the way we’re doing. It used to be that you could give a handshake and trust people 100 miles down the road. They could ride 20 miles, some of them riding a horse. … They would ride a horse to come take care of your friends and your neighbors. You didn’t need a law to sit in a school house to watch our kids – 7, 8, 9, 10 years old – to look for guns, knives, carry rifles to school. And now we’ve got to have them on every stinkin’ door.”
Thornton said, “I thought we were talking about trees and beautification.”
Taylor retorted, “No, you’re not talking about trees. You’re talking about control. Pure socialism.”
This wasn’t the first time Cooper had taken a major role like this.
Three years ago, he was one of the most outspoken critics when Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson tried to incorporate zoning to Powdersville. Ron Wilson withdrew his original plan to incorporate zoning after a roomful of hundreds of people opposed it.
On Friday, several residents said they felt this plan was similar to zoning or incorporation.
Spencer replied that the plan didn’t have anything to do with zoning, and that there was no concrete plan set in place anyway.
“Nothing is set in place that anybody needs to be worried about right now,” Spencer said.
After the meeting, Spencer said he felt that the people had spoken loud and clear and showed they didn’t want the plan, but added that he would have to think about it more.
“I don’t know. I’m going to have to reflect on it,” he said.
Spencer said he’s been working on the plan with other members of the Powdersville Planning Group for about 10 months.
“I don’t think all is lost yet,” he said. “Whether these 40 people speak for this entire community, I don’t know that. They also need to realize that there are two other counties on this corridor. They have a completely different opinion.”
The original Powdersville Planning Group consisted of Spencer, Renewable Water Resources representative Ray Orvin, Duke Energy representative Mike Wilson, Anderson County Planning Director Bill West, Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins, Anderson County Planning Commission member Wes Hulsey, S.C. Department of Transportation Commissioner Eddie Adams, Appalachian Council of Governments representative Aliza Tourkow, Easley Combined Utilities General Manager Joey Ledbetter, City of Easley Administrator Fox Simons, Greenville County Planning representative Daniel McGee, state Rep. Dan Cooper, Anderson County Interim Administrator Rusty Burns and Pickens County Administrator Chap Hurst.