Irmo’s downtown district plan attacked

By Al Dozier

The Irmo Town Council came under fire at Tuesday’s council meeting from residents angered at a plan to acquire local residential properties to create a new downtown district for the town.

“How devastating this will be” said Irmo resident James Mack. “You’re looking at displacing people.”

The town could force residents to sell their proper in accordance with the eminent domain policy that gives the town the authority to confiscate property, provided owners are paid market value.

Currently, the town is considering acquiring properties in the downtown area near the Community Park of Irmo. The town hopes to develop a new “Main Street” setting for the town, which currently has no identifiable downtown features.

But the property under consideration is predominantly owned by African Americans, some of whom spoke out about the impact the loss of land would have on long-time residents.

“The idea would eliminate our legacy,” said Irmo resident William Bowman. “To steal the land from residents is unnecessary.”

Resident Marion Boyd Sr. said the neighborhoods that the town wants to acquire are historically black neighborhoods.

“You have no feelings for blacks,” he said.

Irmo Mayor Barry Walker Sr., an African American, appeared to be moved by the concerns and urged the council to approach the property acquisitions in a way that would take into consideration the impact on the property owners.

But the majority of the council supported the plan.

Councilman Erik Sickinger said the concerns expressed by the property owners would be addressed by the real estate acquisition firm the town plans to employ to acquire property for the new district.

The council approved a resolution authorizing the town to hire a firm to “start the process” for establishing the district. The town is currently considering the acquisition of 12 different properties of which only a couple of the parcels are occupied at this time. The rest are vacant lots.

The council also approved a resolution to purchase 1.82 acres of property near the Irmo Community Park that would become part of the new district. Town officials would not release the cost of the purchase, noting that final negotiations are still underway.

The council also approved setting up a contract with Pope Flynn Group as bond counsel for the preparation of a master bond ordinance and the issuance of bonds to fund the infrastructure costs of the project.

Though the amount of the bond issue has not been determined, town officials expect it to be around $3 million to $4 million. The bond would be funded by hospitality tax.

In other action, the council gave final reading approval to annex a property at 1194 Dutch fork Road owned by Savage Realty and Development Inc. The property is contiguous to commercial property within the town of Irmo.

The council approved the submission of a letter to Post Modern Jukebox to perform at the 2023 Okra Strut not to exceed $30,000.

The council approved the reappointment o Mike Ward and Phillis Hawkins to the Okra Strut Commission.

Liberty Tax was recognized as the December 2022 Small Business of the Month.

The council recognized the following new in-town businesses: Quality Assured Processing, LLC, 407 Lord Howe Road; Green Dynasty LLC,121 Dean Crest Road; Bobby White Insurance & Financial Services, 2900 Dreher Shoals Road; Snips Vintage, LLC, 236 Dyers Hall Road; MSN Management, 1 Wellness Blvd.

During the Community Connections presentation, students from H. E. Corley Elementary School were recognized as “Artist of the Month.” Their artwork is on display at Town Hall.

The council was also advised the Lexington-Richland School District 5 is now offering Choice and Magnet programs for students. Selections can be found on the district’s website.

The Irmo Chili Cook-off and Car Show is planned for Jan. 28 at the Community Park of Irmo.