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The_news_and_reporter
Luck is carving out a new quarry plan for Chester County: Reformatted plan addresses many community concerns

Part 2 of 2

Luck Companies, the parent company of Luck Stone is submitting a pack of new rezoning applications. The requests for rezoning (and down-zoning) are on the agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting of the Chester County Planning Commission.

Luck previously submitted and then subsequently withdrew, some applications for rezoning in 2019 centered around the same parcels of land. (See the first part of this story in the Dec. 7, 2022 issue of The News & Reporter).

The new applications expand on the previous rezoning requests. Some of the modification to the plan was in response to the feedback received by the community during the previous rezoning application process.

‘We listened, we learned,’ proclaims the supporting documents that will be filed along with the rezoning and special exception applications (to allow the operation of the rock quarry).

‘Our previous rezoning process and community involvement over the past two years has supported our understanding of what is critically important to Chester County…Using what we learned from the community and the 2022-2030 Chester County Comprehensive Plan, Luck Companies re-imagined the positive impact that an economic development project can have on the Chester County community. Local feedback and input from residents and community representatives alike helped to reformat a plan for the property that Luck purchased off Hwy. 9…’

It could be said the landscape of development in general has changed in Chester County. Luck Greenfield Development Director Ben Thompson explained how Luck has changed their approach to community involvement in light of this.

“Previously while we put public ads in the paper for open houses and things like that, we kept our direct mailers and speaking to people one-on-one, we kept that pretty local in our previous application. We have had two years to live in the community more and learn more about it. This time, we have made it more of a whole-county conversation instead of just local to the site. There are sub-communities within those communities where we have heard more support. Because we have been here in the community a while (and participated in various activities) we have heard from a lot more groups and been able to participate with them, and we have seen a lot of opportunities to engage, opportunities that had nothing to do with our application,” Thompson said.

“Those opportunities have also provided us the chance to show who we are in a greater context. The disparaging, skeptical comment you might hear sometimes is ‘you’re just (participating in a festival, providing lunch for a community cleanup or saying thank you to teachers with a special meal — all things Luck has done in the community) doing that to get something’ but we are able to point to other communities where we’ve done similar things,” Thompson said.

This time, Luck has no plans for community information meetings as they did in the past, mainly because they felt those meetings devolved into hearing from the naysayers and not just imparting information to the community or answering questions that citizens had.

“As far as the informational meetings, we went over and above what you might typically see, which is not unusual for this company,” Thompson said, “We have about six of those meetings. What we found at the tail end of those is that for the first one or two meetings, we had 30% of the people who showed up because they didn’t have anything to do and wanted to learn about the company. We had about 30% who showed up who had some questions or had something specific that they were trying to figure out should be a concern or not. They came in, asked questions, met our company representatives, some went on visits (to other Luck Stone sites)…what persisted was the opposition folks show up who already had their minds set,” Thompson said.

“This time we have been more targeted in our conversations, and reached out and spoken to this group and that group, providing information more from an organizational standpoint. But our name is still out there, our phone number is still out there, our websites and email addresses. We have a website specific to our Chester project,” he said. That website is https://www.luckcompanies.com/gf-site/chester-sc.

Luck has also changed their plan so as to answer the concerns of the community and the residents near the project.

Luck has voluntarily built in some conditions and proffers to the application that they are holding themselves to and must meet as part of the application (through the life of the site).

According to the plan, ‘the conditions and proffers are a voluntary measure by Luck Companies to try and provide an additional sense of comfort for the community and control for the county as our site is developed…’

Thompson elaborated, “Speaking to those concerns is more than us just standing and talking. With this new application, we have documented (our conditions) they are a legal obligation; we have included these attached to our application. If you run afoul of any of these statements, commitments, the county has the authority to pull our right to use the property, and we would be walking away from a very hefty investment.

“That’s pretty clearly denoted in the conditions. And there is a condition or proffer that falls into each one of the major categories of concern,” Thompson points out.

For example, the state sets a certain energy level of the power of a blasting activity — that amount is half of what the activity could actually cause — Luck’s operating procedure is half of the state level.

“That is tracked by seismograph; if you exceed the state’s level you just get shut down — that’s not even a county-level conversation, you are shut down at the federal level,” Thompson said.

Luck has committed to offer pre-blast survey, so if a home or business owner is within a half mile of the site, Luck will conduct a whole-house survey at no cost to the homeowner before any blasting activity takes place.

“We view that as much as protection for us as for the homeowner or property owner,” Thompson said.

For the issue of noise, the state specifies that noise from the mining operations other than blasting will not exceed 80 DBa (equivalent to the sound of a telephone dial tone) for more than five minutes.

These proffers and conditions are over and above what an economic development project normally agrees to, but Thompson says in more developed areas of the country, similar conditions are a pretty standard practice.

The public can see the extensive list of conditions Luck has agreed to in the Updated Site Plan and Application Summary for at https://www.luckcompanies.com/state/south-carolina.

Thompson would like residents to sere the enhanced Luck plan as more than just a “plan for a quarry”. He points out that Luck Companies has three components: Luck Stone, Luck Real Estate Ventures and their investment in educational opportunities. This project includes all three aspects of the company.

“I think everyone focuses on the quarry, so the majority of our language, the majority of our education efforts and the majority of the regulations attached to this project are about that. But we try to communicate to people while there is a lot of conversation about quarries, a lot of language about quarries and a lot of oversight connected with quarries, we are a company that’s got three businesses; we are proposing to bring all three businesses to this county…we try to get people to recognize there is a larger vision, a collection of opportunities here and from that, is the platform to support not just our growth, but county growth in general,” Thompson said.


Luck conditions

Wells & Water

“If DHEC determines that Mining Operations has caused the drying of the property owner’s well, Operator shall be responsible for providing an alternative water source […] for the aggrieved party at Operator’s expense.”

Community Fund

“Annually, Operator shall contribute the lesser of (i) one% (1%) of the adjusted net sales […] during the year or (ii) Thirty Five Thousand Dollars ($35,000.00) to one or more organizations within Chester County…”

Blasting

“Ground vibration caused by blasting activity shall not exceed the maximum peak particle velocity allowed pursuant to South Carolina Code of Regulations Section 89-150(E)…”

Dust

“In connection with the issuance of the Air Quality Permit, Operator shall develop and implement a facility-wide plan for controlling fugitive dust and emissions from Mining Operations…”

Donation of Property

“…the Applicant shall offer for dedication to the County of one or more parcels containing a total of not less than fifteen (15) acres for governmental uses…”

Noise

“Airborne noise produced from Mining Operations other than blasting shall not exceed 80dba of continuous noise for greater than five (5) minutes…”

Source: Updated Site Plan and Application Summary


The_news_and_reporter
What do city, county want for Christmas? A new administrator

Editor's note: After this story went to press the Chester City Council selected former Fairfield Co. Administrator Malik Whitaker as the new City Administrator. In a meeting on Dec. 12, council okayed Mayor Wanda Stringfellow, interim Administrator Ed Driggers and the human resources attorney to finalize contract negotiations.

Chester County and the City of Chester may not have to wait until the new year for new leadership.

Both entities are currently in the market for new administrators. The City of Chester has been without a full-time administrator since the firing of Stephanie Jackson in late March. Ed Driggers who had previously served as Chester’s administrator and had recently retired after a successful 20-year run as Greer’s administrator, was brought in on an interim basis.

It was hoped he could not only keep the City functioning but help Chester get its financial house in order.

He has had to deliver news at times that the council has likely not enjoyed hearing, like the fact that Chester is on pace to run out of money this coming July and has no credit, so borrowing is not an option. However, he did work closely with department heads to craft a “very tight” budget.

The City advertised the administrator position nationally and drew more than 100 applicants. The finalists were named two weeks ago. Being considered for the City’s top job were Malik Whitaker, Christine Keefer, Tiffany Cooks and Kenneth B. Geathers, Jr.

Two of the finalists are from nearby counties, including Malik Whitaker. A resident of Ridgeway, Whitaker is currently serving as the Fairfield County Administrator, a position he has held since last year. Previously he served as the operations and management consultant manager for the Florida Department of Children and Families in Tallahassee (from 2020 to 2021), served as the director of policy and continuous quality improvement for the South Carolina Department of Social Services (from 2015 until 2020) and was the agency’s Regional Services Director for the three years prior. Whitaker was the project lead for Communities in Schools of the Midlands from 2011 to 2012; program director for United Way of the Midlands from 2007 to 2011; research associate for Benedict College from 2003 to 2007 and assistant zoning administrator for Richland County from 1997 to 2003. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Juris Doctor degree.

Christine Keefer is a resident of Blythewood and is currently an independent consultant providing administrative and communication services to public and private entities.

From 2019 until earlier this year, she was director of government and community services for Richland County and from 2013 until 2018 was the finance and human resources director and assistant town administrator for the Town of Blythewood. She held various communications and administrative positions from 1999 through 2012. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications; and a Master of Public Administration.

A third candidate does currently work in the state. Tiffany Cooks is presently a resident of Kingstree. Her present position is the county supervisor for Williamsburg County, a position she has held since 2019. Previously she served as director of the Williamsburg County Emergency Management/E-911 department from 2008 to 2019. She formerly served in the United States Army as Military Police. Her educational background includes an Associate in Science degree; a Bachelor of Science degree; a Master of Business Administration degree; and a Ph.D.

The final candidate currently works and lives in North Carolina. Kenneth B. Geathers, Jr. of Hickory most recently served as the interim finance director of the Town of Maiden, NC. He served from 2011 to 2022 as the town manager for the Town of Rutherford College, NC. He has experience as a director of public works and as a town planner. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government; and a Master of Public Administration degree. He is an International City/County Management Association credentialed manager.

At Monday night’s meeting of Chester City Council, Driggers seemed to acknowledge a hire was close at hand, as he talked at length about how much he had enjoyed working with the Council and pledged to be helpful during the transitional period. Mayor Wanda Stringfellow thanked him for his efforts and said his knowledge and expertise had been instrumental in keeping things on track.

Chester County has been without a full-time supervisor since September is 2020 when former Supervisor Shane Stuart was removed from office by Gov. Henry McMaster after being indicted on multiple drug and conspiracy charges. Wylie Frederick, a longtime educator and former magistrate, was appointed interim supervisor. He was given a plaque and acknowledged by Chester County Council last week.

Just weeks after the indictment of Stuart (who was recently sentenced to seven years in prison), Chester County voters overwhelmingly approved a switch from an elected supervisor to a hired administrator. Chester County Council advertised the position and identified three candidates to bring back for second interviews. The News & Reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the names of those candidates. However, two of them withdrew from consideration and the process was restarted. The Council has had multiple special called meetings, which have included various discussions of the administrator opening but no vote has yet taken place to make an offer. The most recent was on Monday.


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