Whether to continue its mask mandate beyond next week’s expiration was discussed at Greenwood City Council’s special called meeting Monday.
“I think we ought to let it expire,” Councilman Ronnie Ables said. “I think the threat has pretty well passed.”
Many council members shared the same opinion.
“It makes sense to let it expire,” Councilwoman Niki Hutto said.
The city has maintained a mask mandate since July – when it was first enacted as an emergency ordinance. Council approved extensions of the mandate in September, November, January and March with only structural changes to the wording of the ordinance.
“I feel like we are past the emergency stage,” Mayor Pro Tem Johnathan Bass said. “I will not be voting for any additional mask ordinances.”
Bass said he thinks everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He said it is now time for personal responsibility to be exercised. Mayor Brandon Smith said he wants to encourage people to get back to attending large-scale events.
On several occasions, council debated whether to reduce the mandate to only include grocery stores and pharmacies, although that idea never received enough support to pass.
In December, council voted 3-3 — a tie that effectively ended the matter — on first reading of a long-term extension of the mask ordinance which would have continued the mandate until Gov. Henry McMaster’s state of emergency was lifted.
The mask ordinance is set to expire at 8 a.m. Monday.
Council approved a trio of ordinances on second reading during the meeting, most of which was related to the annexation and rezoning of 1925 Calhoun Road. Council approved both ordinances that will allow housing developer Todd Bailey to build 120 homes on nearly 40 acres on the north side of the city.
Those ordinances met resistance from nearby homeowners who took issue with the environmental concerns including silt deposits, chemicals changing the ecosystem and water runoff from the property. Residents also voiced concerns over the growth in housing developments along Calhoun Road during the last year.
“My backyard will be in the backyard of this development,” Joe Langley, a homeowner who lives near the development and has spoken against similar rezoning efforts in the area, said at the public hearing.
The first ordinance annexed the property into the city while the second ordinance rezoned the property to R-7, a high-density residential zoning with 6,000-square-foot minimum lot sizes and a maximum of seven housing units per acre.
Because of existing wetlands on the property, Bailey said he can only put in 120 lots. If the land were flat, he could add another 100 lots.
“It’s all we can do,” Bailey said at the hearing.
While the city/county planning staff recommended approval of the rezoning, the planning commission recommended denial.
The Johns Creek subdivision — as Bailey intends to call it — will join another project on Calhoun Road, right across the street. Clairborne, another development by Bailey, is a duplex-style development that will feature 76 units targeted at an older population. Less than a mile down the road, Hamilton Park Apartments is being built across from the YMCA. The 264-unit apartment complex faced a tough rezoning battle last year as many residents spoke against the rezoning at both the planning commission meeting and Greenwood County Council’s public hearing.
Council also approved an amendment to the 2021 budget that would allocate funds to make repairs to stormwater drains in the Kitson Street area. The budget amendment includes a one-time bonus payment to city employees. The amount an employee receives is relative to the number of years of employment with the city.
Before voting, Greenwood City Manager Julie Wilkie asked council to consider amending the ordinance to include the purchase of a 2021 Pierce Engine for the city’s fire department. The city is dealing with an aging fleet in its fire protection.
“We have been kicking the can down the road for too many years,” Greenwood Fire Chief Terry Strange said.
Finance Director Julie Latham said the city has the opportunity to buy a demo product at a reduced price to replace a 22-year-old fire engine.
The demo fire engine would be available for $546,761, $65,000 less than ordering a new engine. The engine will also be available within three weeks while a custom-built engine could take 10 to 12 months to build.
The fire department has faced challenges with aging equipment that has put fire stations in jeopardy of closing.
“It’s not a need to have,” Strange said. “It’s a have to have.”