By Al Dozier
There were a lot of different issues on the table at Irmo’s Town Council meeting on February 7.
New grants for local businesses, bothersome water discharges, crime problems, street access to multi-family apartment neighborhoods and more ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding priorities were up for discussion. But since it was a council workshop, no official action was taken.
Local businesses could look for town-funded office appearance attractions if the council adopts a proposal to provide $10,000 grants. The proposal by town staff would provide store-front improvements for businesses approved for the grants, which would require the recipient to make an equal contribution to provide a total of $20,000 for the appearance improvement plan.
The storefront improvements would include such additions as awnings, lighting, street signs and other promotional decorations that would enhance the appearance of local businesses and those in shopping strips.
In other action, the council discussed new zoning requirements on multi-family housing neighborhoods that could require wider access roads to and from the developments. Traffic is often bottlenecked along the busy nearby streets, slowing access for emergency response teams.
There was a long discussion on whether the town could require the proposed four-lane access route in zoning regulations, but the council agreed to consider such a requirement when new multi-housing projects are first being developed.
Council members agreed that multi-housing developments should not have landscaping structures taller than four feet. Such structures could interfere with emergency responders’ access to housing properties.
The council agreed to give those measures further consideration.
The council also considered updating the town’s ordinances on water discharge, which would provide protection for a home-owner whose neighbor recklessly discharges water on nearby property.
Mayor Barry Walker Sr. didn’t think such an ordinance is needed. He said anyone who was damaging a neighbor’s property could simply be approached with a “knock on the door” and told to stop.
But Councilman Erik Sickinger said the problem occurs when the neighbor refuses such a request.
The council agreed to consider further deliberations on the issue.
The council also discussed the town’s ordinance on parking and unsightly properties that sometimes have piles of leaves or other debris that not only looks bad but brings rodents and other unhealthy conditions to the neighborhoods.
Councilman Sickinger noted that the town’s ordinance on parking unnecessarily prohibits a resident from parking two work vehicles in a residential neighborhood.
Town officials agreed to review the ordinance and consider new language.
The council also discussed priorities for the remaining ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds received by the town.
Town Administrator Courtney Dennis said the funds could be used to complete improvements at Rawls Creek Park and for property upgrades as the town plans for constructing a new Town Hall. He said funds are also needed for the town to buy a basket truck for repair work needed for high-rise projects.
The council also discussed the need for enhanced security measures in the Beacon Hill/Carmel Commons area, where a recent break-in and assault occurred. The council agreed the town could look into having a police sub-station in a community with crime problems.
Walker said he is working with Columbia officials on a regional program dealing with new crime prevention initiatives.
The council also discussed continued complaints about Blue Granite water bills, a problem local citizens have complained about for years.
Last year the council considered taking over the water service because of the continued high rates, but later decided not to pursue that action.
The council agreed to notify town residents that the council is aware of the problem and will continue to call attention to it with state and local elected officials.