City delays final vote on land for recreation complex

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

After a half-hour of closed-door legal advice on the city’s plan to buy $600,000 worth of land for the basis of a recreation complex, City Council last week postponed a final vote on the project.
Council had been set at its March 3 meeting to take the final vote on buying the 116 acres of land off Harry Byrd Highway. But after meeting with counsel from the Florence-based Haynsworth Sinkler & Boyd law firm in executive session, council voted to table its last vote on the plan.
That effectively postpones a vote on the project, but council didn’t say when it would be brought up again for a vote or why a final vote was being taken off the table.
“I don’t think it’s a fatal problem,” said one official familiar with the project. “They tabled it just to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”
If a final vote had been taken last week, that basically would have closed the deal to purchase the land from Olin B. Kirven. Council has consistently referred to the project on its agendas as “ballfield purchase” or “ballfield land,” but city officials hope it will become far more than that.
New softball and baseball fields are part of the project, but officials hope the property would be the nucleus of a recreational complex that eventually would offer “something for everyone,” as Recreation Director Lee Andrews has said. Its growth would depend on exactly what the city wanted to do and when.
The land is not in the city limits, but officials are trying to work out a way to build a “bridge” of property that would let city officials annex the 116 acres. City Manager Howard Garland said in a report to council that the city has sent letters to three landowners “asking for permission to annex a portion of their properties into the corporate city limits of Darlington.”
The city is asking to annex a 10-foot strip of land from those property owners. If that’s successful, it would connect the rest of the city with the 116 acres of recreation land.
In one of the letters sent to the landowners, Garland writes: “The city of Darlington is excited to share the news that it has found suitable property to build a recreational sports complex within the county near Darlington Raceway. The potential economic prospects would bolster both the town and the track with increased traffic, businesses and visitors.”
Garland goes on to explain that the property isn’t contiguous with the city limits and that the city “would prefer to invest tax dollars” in property within city limits. He then explains the proposal to annex a 10-foot strip of land if the property owner agrees. “Your property’s access to services would remain the same in terms of water, sewer, police, sanitation and fire (protection),” Garland writes.
“We see this as a win-win situation where all benefit” from this project, Garland continues in the letter. “The potential for the development of more restaurants, retail and hotel accommodations along S.C. 151 and the U.S. 52 Bypass would be greatly enhanced with this added attraction. The growth could ignite a better connection and flow between the city of Darlington and the city of Hartsville.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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