County’s comprehensive plan says we need a hotel
by Samantha Lyles
At Darlington County Council’s Feb. 3 meeting, an update on the county’s comprehensive plan included discussion of a major goal for local economic development: a new hotel.
Alexander Brebner, a Charleston-based planner, worked through the Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments to help the Darlington County Planning Commission update the comprehensive plan. Brebner said the 100-page document includes questions, suggestions, and strategies to help the county deal with flooding issues, utilize natural and historical resources, and jumpstart population growth.
One of the plan’s central economic development ideas, he said, is “to introduce a hotel and community meeting space or convention center near the (Darlington) Raceway.” Brebner said that while the NASCAR track draws visitors from all across the nation to the annual Southern 500 race weekend, little of the accommodations revenue stays in Darlington County.
“You are leaking a lot of economic opportunity to Florence County because that’s where the hotels are,” Brebner said. “So we describe a strategy with specific tasks that the county could undertake in order to get a project like that off the ground.”
He suggested conducting a feasibility study as the first step toward a hotel development project. Later in the meeting, Council member Joyce Wingate Thomas voiced support for conducting such a study.
To lure new residents, Brebner said the plan covers ideas to “attract and spur new housing development,” such as reducing the costs developers face when attempting new construction.
Council approved second reading of the updated comprehensive plan, which should be formally adopted after third and final reading at Council’s March 2 meeting.
Also at this meeting, Council heard from Ronald Williams with the U.S. Census Bureau. Williams reminded everyone that Census Day is April 1, and he asked the county to establish a Complete Count Committee to help ensure the county submits an accurate accounting of local population. Williams noted that many federal funding programs will rely on Census 2020 data to inform their decisions, and Darlington County’s numbers could have a positive – or negative – financial impact.
Council member Bobby Kilgo voiced his agreement and later moved for the establishment of a Complete Count Committee. Council approved the motion and charged county administrator Charles Stewart to organize that group.
The asphalt paving of flood-prone and muddy Commanchee Road will soon commence, as Council awarded the project to Evans Pavement Services, which submitted a low bid of $343,729.50. The paving project will be paid for through County Transportation Commission funds.
Council approved receipt of a $100,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant award for American Spool & Packaging to make building improvements.
Additionally, Council okayed the expenditure of $96,271 from the Environmental Services budget to purchase five self-contained garbage compactors. These units will replace aged compactors at county convenience sites. Baker Waste Equipment will provide the new compactors.
Finally, Council approved using $1.1 million from the General Obligation Bond Fund to purchase five Ford E-450 ambulances, equipped with power cots, chest compression systems, and defibrillators.
During closing comments, several members of Council voiced their sympathies for those affected by the Jan. 26 shooting at Mac’s Lounge in Hartsville. The incident – which began with an argument on the dance floor – erupted into violence that left three men dead and three other people injured.
“We had a pretty tough week in Hartsville,” said Council member David Coker, who thanked law enforcement for swiftly locating and arresting those responsible. “Times are tough. Love your neighbors.”
Darlington County Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., March 2, at the Courthouse Annex located at 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington. This meeting is open to the public.