After five months of obstacles, debates and halted progress, a series of ordinances related to Haile Gold Mine and mining in general received final approval by Lancaster County Council late Monday night, Nov. 12.
It’s been a long journey for council members, mine officials and Kershaw residents, as several ordinances involving rezonings, development agreements and zoning definitions have been in flux since the measures were presented to council in June.
Chief among those was an ordinance that created a stir amongst some residents, involving the rezoning of several residential properties to an industrial use. Many residents have appeared before council, some fighting back tears, to express concern about potential debris, road traffic and environmental impacts that could result from mining activity in their community.
Having listened to those concerns, as well as information from gold mine representatives, council voted 5-1 on Monday to approve final reading of that ordinance, which rezones 3,081 acres of property located a few miles east of the town of Kershaw, from R-45A rural residential/intense agricultural to I-2 heavy industrial.
Councilman Larry Honeycutt dissented and Councilwoman Charlene McGriff was absent from the meeting. But unlike previous readings, Councilmen Jack Estridge and Rudy Carter did not recuse themselves from the vote.
Now that it’s approved, the ordinance rezones properties near the gold mine, located along Goldmine Road, Haile Gold Mine Road, S.C. 265, Snowy Owl Road, Ernest Scott Road, Uriah Road and Enchantment Road.
The properties are located exclusively in Estridge’s council district.
The rezoning ordinance was originally scheduled for consideration at council’s June 11 meeting and was subsequently postponed, though that didn’t stop several residents from speaking out during that meeting.
First reading was June 25, though second reading was postponed until Aug. 27, pending the completion of a development agreement between the county and Haile Gold Mine.
At that meeting, Layton Lord, attorney for Haile Gold Mine, told council that mine representatives eventually decided not to pursue the development agreement.
The ordinance was then placed on hold pending review by council members and was finally brought back for final reading on Monday.
The final readings of two other ordinances related to mining were also approved Monday night.
Council voted 6-0 to approve both Ordinance 1160, which adds mining definitions to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance, and Ordinance 1161, which adds mining as a conditional use in I-2 zoning districts.
Final reading of another ordinance, to amend a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement between HGM and the county to include additional parcels of property, remains tabled pending legal review. It is unknown when that ordinance will return to council’s agenda.
Though the ordinances have attracted a lot of attention from Kershaw residents in recent months, only one man spoke about the issue Monday night.
Kershaw resident Gus Deligiannidis took a few moments to give the mine his stamp of approval.
“I believe you should go ahead and approve rezoning and start the next step that the Haile Gold Mine people need to do,” Deligiannidis said.
He also told council his wife of 40 years warned him to “be careful” what he said at the meeting, especially since there have been so many outspoken critics of HGM’s plans in the area.
“My philosophy, my thinking is these people (other outspoken residents) have fear in them because our mind works in pictures and they picture things going wrong,” he said.
HGM attorney Lord also took a few minutes to address council, mainly to shoot down rumors he’s heard from residents that the company was interested in creating a landfill on the property.
“To show good faith, we have signed a covenant that says no landfill will be created on this site,” Lord said.
He also supported the approval of the two ordinances related to the county’s UDO.
“I urge you all to revise the zoning code so in fact you don’t have this problem again,” he said.
“I know it’s been a long process and we ask you to approve third reading.”