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County council approves pipeline letter

The Laurens County Council approved the content of a letter concerning the Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission pipeline that will run through the county.

The letter urges Dominion to use existing rights-of-way “without disturbing or encroaching upon additional private lands.” Council also said the proposed route for the pipeline will “disrupt long-standing forestry programs as well as other agricultural or industrial uses.”

The 55-mile pipeline, which is scheduled to be online by November of this year, will run from Chappells to Moore, crossing through a large portion of Laurens County.

The letter was to be sent to Dominion officials, Upstate Forever leaders, the Laurens County delegation and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Council heard conflicting accounts from Dominion officials and several local landowners who do not want to sell easements for the pipeline.

Dominion officials, who promised $500,000 in annual tax benefits to the county by 2019, said negotiations with landowners had been going smoothly and they expected to reach acceptable arrangements with landowners on the pipeline’s current route.

At earlier meetings, landowners including Robby Bell and Erskine Jacks, said they had been threatened with the use of eminent domain by Dominion representatives from Western Land Services.

“Laurens County Council wishes to go on record as opposing any strong-arm tactics by Dominion in the acquisition of property and further strongly opposes the use of eminent domain to forcibly acquire lands, rights-of-way, access roads or other pipeline related matters from property owners in Laurens County,” the letter read.

In other news:

• Laurens County Director of Building Codes Chuck Bobo presented council with an strategy to increase residential development in the county.

Bobo requested that council allow him to waive permit fees for up to 10 “spec homes” that would begin construction this year.

“If we can encourage local or new builders to take a chance on Laurens County by my department losing a one-time permit fee but build the tax base for generations, we all can be winners,” Bobo said.

According to Bobo, 283 custom homes for immediate occupancy have been built in the county over the past three years, but only 13 speculative homes have been built over that same time period.

He said he hopes by waiving the permit fees on up to 10 homes, a developer might build single spec homes or a subdivision with a $4,000-$8,000 savings on the permits.

Permits for homes valued at $100,000 cost $460 and $760 for homes valued at $200,000.

Depending their location in the county, homeowners pay between $630-$1,408 in annual property taxes.

• Council unanimously approved the appointments of Bud Marchant from District 7 to the Laurens County Parks, Recration and Tourism Council and Rob Roper from District 4 to the county Planning Commission.

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