Local residents working to protect the environment

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Fountain Inn, Local

May 9, 2022 by Shirley Adams - Views: 518

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Local residents working to protect the environment

If you should visit Nancy and Randall Garrison’s home, three, frisky canines will greet you first. One of them, a black and white border collie with one blue eye and one brown eye stands guard over some cattle grazing in a nearby pasture. Horses placidly nibble at the grass while birds swoop back and forth from rows of purple martin gourde dwellings, erected high on poles. Nancy says that these birds faithfully return to their homes every year. A lone bluebird sings atop his perch upon a cross placed before an ancient tree. And above and around it all is this sense of calm, quiet, and peace.

Nancy Garrison with her beloved
horse named "Sand in My Soul",
Sister for Short

Nancy with her seven siblings grew up in Simpsonville, South Carolina. At her family’s homestead on Neeley Ferry Road, there used to be horses all around, but now, the land is surrounded by development. Nancy’s passion concerning land use grew from watching this process happen where she grew up.

At the age of twenty-two, Nancy met her husband, Randall. Sometimes, they keep cattle for various customers, but their primary business centers on horses. Son Joby and Randall currently participate in a rodeo and roping affair, the USTRC (United States Team Roping Championships) finals. Nancy, who has loved barrel racing since a child, has competed in this sport all over the place and in several states. A member of WPRA (Women’s Professional Rodeo Association), Nancy qualified for world champions, started the American semifinals, and qualified for buckles and saddles in 2016.

Garrison Farms specializes in the training of barrel racing horses and riders. Barrel racing horses are worth a lot of money because of their skill and specialized training. At present, Nancy owns a few horses, and trains some, but she does not do much breeding. In her business, she strives to teach others both the love and the skill of barrel racing. Nancy proudly drives her truck around their property pointing out an arena for training as well as a beautiful pond.

Garrison Farms was established by her husband and his father in the late 1960’s. Nancy loves this way of life—the quiet, the peace, and the space. She says that this is the way she grew up. But now her way of life feels threatened. She says that her concern over the pace of development in her area is taking precedence even over her beloved horse business.

Cleared off land abutting Garrison
property as seen through their trees.

Then, Nancy points to this ghastly gray expanse framed by her property’s trees. One day in February 2022, they came and stripped the pine forest on the adjacent property for this new development. Deer and other wildlife once lived there. Before spring’s arrival, this skyline looked far worse because the greenery and trees on their land had not yet come out.

Nancy says it is part of a larger plan for 941 new homes and 136 townhouses. Nancy questions that the folks in this farming community had the opportunity to express their point of view or give input. She points out that a “little white sign” posted on the property to be cleared is not sufficient notification!

So far, some three hundred four acres of beautiful farmland have been gobbled up in this ongoing project. Nancy feels that this may be happening because the involved land borders Greenville. With Greenville’s growth and expansion, more homes are needed, and this area is only twenty-five minutes or so away.

Environmentalists will tell you of the dangers associated with widescale land clearing—everything from habitat destruction and its displacement of wildlife to runoff and drainage issues. Nancy says that a wetland located near a creek concerns her. Such massive land clearing will flood the roads. She has already sent videos of a flooded Durbin Road to those involved in planning.

Nancy explains that this area includes narrow, curvy roads. Such roads, about the width of one car, cannot accommodate two-way traffic without one of the vehicles pulling off. She wonders how they will accommodate construction vehicles, increased traffic, and school buses.

Narron roads bordering
the Garrison property.

Then, Nancy points out the noise associated with construction. Already, her horses have been frightened with the cutting and bulldozing of trees. Once these communities become established, she envisions such things as heavy traffic and fireworks to scare the animals even more. She worries about folks who might try to feed or pet the animals, not realizing that horses can be skittish and move quickly and unexpectedly.

Then, there are the nearby mobile home residents who could be pushed out with nowhere to go in the wake of further development projects.

Nancy envisions the continued loss of farmland, and it troubles her. “The farming way of life is going to be non-existent!” she declares. “Farmers are struggling, and when corporate builders come along and offer big sums for land, they may give up and sell to make ends meet. All these tiny houses everywhere, but soon there won’t be any acreage on which to farm, and then where are we going to get our food?” she continues. Deep down, Nancy loves where she lives and knows that to rebuild what she now has somewhere else would require not only a whole lot of money but also considerable time.

All of these reasons answer why Nancy has been trying to raise awareness and increase transparency to the public.

Since February 2022, Nancy has been attending every Laurens County Council meeting and every planning commission meeting. She has made it her mission to express concern about this growth and its ramifications. She scans agendas on the county website the Friday prior to each meeting to find upcoming proposals. Nancy asked for a moratorium but was told that there were not enough folks in Fountain Inn to merit such a move. She also initiated petitions on the issue. She is trying to get ordinances changed, larger minimum lot sizes, and more public notification and awareness. Nancy says that even if you get something voted down, someone can always appeal so vigilance is the key.

Right now, the minimum lot size for a parcel of land is eight thousand square feet. They say that this small lot size allows for more green space and saves on infrastructure, but Nancy thinks that the opposite is true. Prior to the most recent ordinance, one could petition for variances and end up with even smaller lot sizes. Also, they only require a 30-foot buffer between properties which is why this cleared area abuts her land.

In her struggles to make people more aware of this situation, Nancy has encountered problems. It is an exploding growth, and she has been told that there is nothing she can do. Nancy is quick to add that she does not want to stop growth. She just wants to make sure that the citizens have input, and that the growth is controlled and planned. In the past, zoning and subdivision ordinances for this area have been nebulous at best. In December 2021, they approved Ordinance 910 which needs to be codified according to their website.

Ordinance 910 states that “the process of converting raw land into building sites is one of the most important factors in the growth of Laurens County.” The ordinance goes on to recognize the lasting effects of such activities on the community’s environment and appearance, stating that one of its primary purposes is “to safeguard the interests of the homeowners, the public, the Developer, and the various local government agencies.” Nancy feels that developers are getting what they want but not the homeowners whose viewpoints and concerns have not been sought or evaluated. At the next council meeting, Nancy plans to ask for a town hall meeting on this issue so that people can express their concerns and get answers.

Nancy gets emotional over this issue and says, “We are going to lose that small town feel if we keep going this way too fast!” She adds that the community has shown its support through the signing of petitions, but she would love to see more community members come to county council and planning commission meetings, and let their voices be heard. Also, they could call the council and let them know their feelings, because community support really matters.

Nancy says that she has been told that land use mapping is going to take time. Yet as she looks around at all that has so far changed, she reflects, “Residents don’t have time. If no action is taken now, we will be completely covered up!”

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