The city council meeting was filled to capacity last night, with overflow into the lobby. The mood was tense as residents came to confront the city council on the ongoing issue of the annexation, located at the intersection of Brown Drive and Sheriff Mill Road in Easley. Local TV stations WYFF, FOX Carolina, and WSPA sent crews to cover the story that has residents on edge.
The first issue brought forward by Denise Davidson of Ward 2, were revenue expense exports that have consistently exceeded their budgeted amount. Miscellaneous expenses have been charged with no transparency or description. Per Ms. Davidson, it’s the 60th request, and she has asked for a reasonable response within 10 days.
Davidson asked about bank statements not reconciled since November 2021 into early 2023, and referenced a charge of $970 for Mayor Womack’s Tahoe. In addition, the charge seems to have been moved from City expenses to Police expenses. We will follow up on this story.
The agenda moved on to citizens wishing to address the city council. Some folks who had put their name up to speak were denied entrance due to fire code. Additionally, the doors were not allowed to remain open so the citizens in the lobby could hear their name called. We caught up with one of the neighbors who was denied the opportunity to speak later in the article.
Ann Sheriff Granger was the first speaker. Her family has a 250-year legacy on the road named after her kin. As she closed her remarks, the chambers erupted in applause and cheers. The mayor banged his gavel for order saying, “if this happens every time, we’re gonna end the meeting, you understand?… If ya’ll want to clap, go outside, we have a meeting to conduct.”
Despite this, many spoke eloquently about their situations, and below we have each story. Here are some highlights that were mentioned:
- Environmental issues including wildlife and destruction of neighboring land
- Water runoff which the city is not addressing
- Preserving country life
- Not the job of the city council to get maximum revenue for property owners
- County residents in close proximity to these developments don’t get a say in annexations
In a unanimous vote, the City Council delayed voting on annexing the property. The city will revisit the issue in up to 160 days.
Click here to watch the live stream of the meeting.
Voices that were heard
Ann Sheriff Granger spoke about the land, the water, and her family’s legacy. She opened with her daily devotional, and poignantly, she voiced her frustration with environmental impact, overcrowded roads and schools and asked city council to help preserve her farm and 250 year old legacy. “Our quality of life is being taken from us “ending with “We are fighting for our way of life.”
The crowd tried to come to order as the next name was read.
Kelsey Crooks presented the next round of petitions against the annexation of Sheriff Mill and Brown Drive that held 1179 signatures which included city, Pickens County, and Anderson County residents.
Harold Kendel of Brown Drive spoke about how the Terri Acres development has impacted his land. (Map below showing Terri Acres off Pelzer Highway. Brown Drive is sandwiched between Sheriff Mill and Terri Acres.) “The runoff of Terri Acres has ruined a spring fed creek and lake, and used to be a bird sanctuary.”
He’s had constant flooding on his land from runoff from Terri Acres and the consistent saturation has taken down 2 trees that are over 50 years old. Others are leaning. “The animals that used to live there are displaced… Enough is enough!”
He went on to reference how county residents don’t get to vote in annexation matters. “Two-hundred fifty years ago many great people gave their lives to be free to have a say and a vote on how things will be done”
In one of the more dramatic events of the night that was captured on camera, he asked, “Who doesn’t want annexation?” County citizens then got the only vote they are currently allowed when it comes to city annexation since they can’t go to the ballot on the issue, and they can’t elect city officials. The chambers resoundingly showed hands – against – no one voted in favor. “Please listen to the people that are going to be affected by this growth. There are over 1,000 people opposed. Will the city officials listen to the majority of the people especially those lives that are and will be affected by this growth? Are you In it for yourself and not the people? God Bless America. “
Tala Moore, an eloquent well-spoken sophomore at Easley High School talked about the increasing number of students while the number of faculty remains constant. Hallways and classrooms are overcrowded. Students are walking home with no sidewalks in what is already a dangerous congested area. She ended with a plea to consider how this annexation will affect people’s lives. Then at the end she joked, “I know you all are clapping for me mentally” referring to the mayor’s threat to end the meeting.
Carol Johnson is an architect that lives in Anderson County downstream. She lives in watershed 17 and the Brown/Sheriff Mill tract is in watershed 11. She spoke as so many did about the water. “The water moves south. We have wood ducks and they are preserved. Watershed 17 has these. Who protects our wetlands and watersheds? I want to make sure everyone is considering these issues.” As an architect, she said that even with the best civil engineer, there will be runoff and it will go into people’s property.
She moved from a large city into the county to be in the countryside. “If I want county property, I buy county property. These annexations are bringing the city closer to me, and its not what I want.”
Gail Garrison shared how if school is starting or ending, she can’t leave her driveway. “Come sit with me on my porch, you can watch with me to see what’s going on,” she said. “Mama ain’t happy, no one is happy. Please stop this mess it’s uncalled for.”
Karin Williams spoke for the landowners of Sitton Road and Sitton Circle in Anderson County. Before any more permits are permitted she asked them to do something about the roads they currently have. She said, “We believe that a traffic study would mandate improvements to Sheriff’s Mill, Brown Drive, Ballantine, St. Paul Road, Brushy Creek Road, and the Pelzer Highway before any further permits could be issued. There are at least 4 developments that are expected to be completed by the end of 2024.”
“The average number of cars per household is above 2, so that puts 800 more cars on these roads. Before the city annexes another 100 acres with another 4 houses per acre, they really need to do something about the roads they currently have. We have lived here our whole lives, and have 3 generations here. We believe Easley needs to grow but we need to grow in a safe, sustainable way.”
Maureen Debose of 157 Pine Lake Drive said she moved here 22 years ago. “I bought 2 and half acres of land on a dead end road. At the edge of my property is a creek that runs into Pine Lake across the street from my house. My neighbors are deer in the woods, owls in trees, and the geese that fly in every night to land in the pond. When the owner of this property had all the hard wood stripped from it, my husband had to go out and show the cutters the boundaries of my property. They were about to cut down trees on my property. They cut right up to my property line.”
“I do not want 300 homes in my backyard. They will abut my property. Where will all the water go? I fear in my backyard. I hope the dirt and garbage will not wash into the creek and into the pond. I am asking that you seriously consider the concerns of the people that are speaking tonight. Please do not make the ecosystem, the roads, and traffic suffer in the name of progress.”
Daniel Lee described this as a tipping point.
“A 160 day delay is great,” he said, “but the same issue will be at hand. Brian Garrison you said you didn’t want to vote until the development plan is updated. Look at that and make sure it’s taking care of the issues. Traffic studies: can’t find them, need to be of a certain radius. Pat you said if we don’t do this, someone else will. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Jim, you said you respect people’s property rights. I agree. But it’s not your job to make sure that the landowner gets maximum profits. There’s not a darn thing that can keep this person from selling their property. It’s not your responsibility to make sure someone makes the maximum profit. Mr. Dipietro is making an effort. If you pass this before the changes are in place, there’s nothing to keep them from doing what they want. Nesbitt’s farm is destroyed. You need to respect people’s property and police what the developers do with it.”
Norma Hill closed the meeting with final remarks from citizens wishing to address the city council.
She is a 1988 graduate of Easley High School with a long family legacy on Sheriff Mill Road and Nesbitt Lane. “We explained what we are experiencing because of poor or shoddy drainage behind their home from the Pleasant Hill subdivision. My husband Leun and I told you about how the same drainage issue is affecting our hay fields.”
She thanked people from the city coming to walk the property and view the damage. She went on “But the suggestions that you gave us only take money out of our pocket. We didn’t cause the problem, but we have to pay for it. We sent videos of water damage to stormwater at the City of Easley to show what happened when all the rain came down. If you can’t help us point us in the right direction. Point us to someone who can. It should not be our responsibility to fix a problem that someone else created. I have lived on Nesbitt lane since 1976. I’m a country girl. I’m not against development and growth. I am not against it, but it can’t be unrestricted.
Kenneth O’Kelley, who was not given the opportunity to speak, said, “Our yard is washing out and we had to pay for bringing in dirt to fill it back. It has caused the inside of the house to start cracking. The water runoff is causing drainage issues. It has caused foundation damage and my hardwood floors are cracking and separating, and my walls are also separating. We have busted mud joints and sheet rock. Our in-ground pool is cracking and the stairs are sinking. We had to buy 2 sump pumps and went through 3 dehumidifiers under the house. The yard is so soft it’s like walking on mush. Especially when it rains, your feet will sink in the ground. We can’t grow grass because it washes.” He lives at 400 Windham Lane which is next to Nesbitt Lane.
Map of Affected Area