Council Votes 10 to 2 to Protect Owners of Property Designated “Historic” from Bureaucratic Abuse
A proposal to amend the Greenville County Zoning Ordinance and allow the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission, an unelected body, to designate private property as historic without the permission of the property owner was about to glide “under the radar” and deprive the owners of property designated as such of their constitutional property rights was discovered by the Greenville County Taxpayers Association before it became law.
The proposed change would have allowed the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission to designate private property as historic without the consent of the owner and would put property improvements and other changes to the property under the oversight and direction of the commission, with powers greater than eminent domain, according to Taxpayer Association President Robert G. “Butch” Taylor.
Members of the Association held two news conferences outside Greenville County Council Chambers. Members of the Council took notice and took a closer look at the proposal before a final vote.
The proposal was motivated by a desire of some Council members to have Lincoln Cemetery, located in the county, and now privately owned, designated as historic in order to obtain grants for improvements to the property.
County Council had already voted to use eminent domain laws to seize the property from the owner who had purchased it at a delinquent tax sale.
The owner informed The Times Examiner last Friday that he was seeking the services of an attorney because he had been offered more for the property by a third party than Greenville County was willing to pay.
The daily newspaper had editorialized in favor of the proposal by Councilman Jim Burns and his committee, and a public hearing had been quietly held in a committee setting. Current policy forbids citizens from addressing the Council in public on any matter after a public hearing is held, even if no one speaks in favor or against the proposal during the hearing due to a lack of public notice.
When the item came up on the agenda for a third and final reading and vote, members of Council were well-aware of the research and preparation conducted by members of the Taxpayers Association whose leaders were seated on the front row of the chamber audience.
When the roll call vote was taken, only two Democrats, Xanthene Norris and Lottie Gibson voted in favor of the confiscatory measure that was described by Taxpayer President “Butch” Taylor as “worse than eminent domain.” Ten Council members voted against the proposal. Prior to the end of the meeting, several citizens commended the ten Council members for their support of the rights of property ownership.