America's Cold Civil War

As we know, a lot of people are moving to the South, to South Carolina, to the Midlands. Irmo is in Lexington/Richland School District Five, one of the top school districts in our state. We are also on the shores on Lake Murray and right out I-26 from Columbia. It is a quick commute to the airport, Williams Brice Stadium, University of South Carolina, and everything Columbia has to offer.

We began years ago as a small rural town and grew in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as a bedroom community. We still are, and over the years we have grown from only a bedroom community to adding other rooms to our town. Full-size kitchen, many places in town to eat; built-in closet, many places in town to shop; porches, with a nice back yard and lots of activities to do - parks, theater, sports and recreation, and we are the first town to be on the lake.
BUT our older neighborhoods compete with the very many new neighborhoods being built all around us in School District Five. People given choices, like to buy homes in new, neat, clean, nice looking neighborhoods. Some of our neighborhoods are showing their age and are experiencing blight. Which has a snowball effect, and just grows.  Blight leads to crime.  Someone argued that point, let them do that all they want.  It's a fact, it's the truth, it is common sense.  Blight leads to crime.
We have talked about addressing neighborhood blight as a Council for years.  In fact I have witnessed this issue in every election campaign since 2003, when I first ran. All candidates "talk" about how they are going to do something about it because most residents want something done about it. When you are out there knocking on their doors, that is what you hear. We had made some leeway a few years ago, but not much.
Two new council members were elected in November 2015. And yes, residents again were asking for this to be addressed about their neighborhoods continuing to be run down. We have been at that “put up or shut up” for sometime. In 2016 we started addressing those blight issues.
Our old ordinance spoke about “unsightly”, which is very debatable as to what that means. We went in and defined more clearly what unsightly means so that code enforcement can actually write up tickets, and go to court, and win.
It is a difficult place to be when you start addressing issues that have to do with property rights. Whether it is allowing chickens or not, parking in the grass, or should I say dirt because the grass has died, minimum home maintenance requirements, tall unkept grass/weeds etc. It is also a difficult place to be when people think their rights are more important than someone else's, their neighbors. All rights come with and came with responsibilities. Liberty and freedom, as you have heard, are not free. They are not a given, they are actually not a right. If they were, we wouldn't be fighting for them. They are a right because we fought for them, and we continue to fight for them. We also have a responsibility to exercise common sense and respect for how the exercise of our rights affects others. Maybe you grew up in a time when you heard or you didn't hear it said, but “your rights actually end at my nose”.
One neighbor wants to play his music on high volume at midnight, is his/her right more important than the neighbor who is trying to sleep? The same issue applies when living in a single family residential neighborhood and you want to run a junk yard, a farm, in your backyard. It doesn't work. That is when the sticky and the tricky start to butt heads. And that is when government has to step in and set rules. Because some neighbor exercising their right has infringed on another. Now we could go back to the days of dueling, or the high noon shoot out, or just let them duke it out in the streets, and let the strongest, most powerful, and fastest win all the debates. This is why we are a nation of laws, and laws are made by elected officials.
If you have lived here a while, think back to what the neighborhoods, and Irmo, looked like five years ago, 10 years ago, 15, 20, 30 years ago.  Does it look the same as it did? No. If we allow this blight to continue, even five more years, we will not be the residential neighborhoods people want to move into, but the one people want to move out of.
These are things that we are addressing, and very cautiously I might add. Yes, we are all listening to the residents, and I do believe some of us, are actually listening to the residents who want something done, not just the ones that shout property rights. But not only are we listening, there comes a time when you must act upon what you heard. There is another old saying, back in the days of the old outhouse, “it's time to ____ or get off the pot”.
You can do all the listening, gathering information, spend time contemplating, but at some time you have got to act, or you are holding up process. Some are good at that, in fact that is all their claim to fame is.  Listening to one side, to a few, but not to the other side. They're even good at creating the faction going on in our community at this time due to some misunderstanding of a parking on the grass ordinance that we have passed.  Some go around telling people you have to park on the roof or in the street due to this ordinance.  That is incorrect.  False. And they are purposefully saying that to stir up strife, make division, or because they have not read it.  But the one that was passed does allow you to continue to park in your yard.  It just requires you to park on something other than dirt or grass.  You can pour more concrete, if you have the money, some have already started doing that I noticed.  You can put concrete stepping stones down beside your driveway in order to widen your driveway.  You can put landscaping timbers down to enclose an area next to your driveway, on one side or a little on both and fill with gravel, crush and run, pinestraw or mulch, which isn't that costly.  If that doesn't work, you can go to the other side of your yard and do the same things there from poured concrete to an enclosed defined parking area, and if that doesn't work, you can get an approval to put it in your front door when no other alternative works.
Now some people talk about working together for the betterment of the community, they talk about a compromise, and yet they don't want to.  There are five alternatives in the current ordinance that we passed, and there is 10 options as to the substrate you can use.  And yet, they can't bend a little, give a little, for the betterment of their neighborhood, their community, and say yes I will build this defined parking space to make me a cheap, inexpensive driveway all to help clean up and beautify my neighborhood.  I will ask each of the neighbors in the Town of Irmo to work with your other neighbors who want Irmo to be the best place, the number one place to move to.  We can work together, but it is a two-way street. We are giving.  The ones that don't want parking in the grass aren't getting what they want, but they are giving.  So why can't the others.  Let's do what is best for the community, and let's help the community spruce up our neighborhoods.  We as a Town spend a lot of money making the interstate entrances looking good, spruce up intersections and other places.  All we on Council and others in the neighborhoods, is for you all to meet us halfway.  We are working with you all, you need to work with us.  Let's quit bickering and fighting, and get to work making our neighborhoods look the best in School District Five.  Not a lot to ask for, not a lot to do, let's just do it.

"Working to Make Irmo Better - We're Doing Just That"
November 5th, 2019