Town of Yemassee experiencing growth spurt

by | July 12, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: July 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Photo by GEORGE SALSBERRY
REVIEWING THE PAPERWORK. Yemassee Mayor Colin Moore, left, and interim Town Clerk Matt Garnes review some of the paperwork passing through the municipal office. Town officials have been shuffling a mountain of paperwork recently as the town council has approved approximately 100 annexation requests.

Over the course of the past few months, the town of Yemassee has been growing in size and population.
Town Clerk Matt Garnes said a series of annexations handled by the town council has doubled the geographic size of the town.
“It is going to take some time to get the population numbers,” he added.
If he had to guess, Garnes said, he would estimate that the town’s population has grown by approximately 200. The 2010 U.S. Census put the town’s population at 1,027.
The town has systematically handled approximately 100 annexations in the past few months.
Garnes came to his population estimate by figuring an average of two residents per home which is now part of Yemassee.
Most of the parcels annexed into the town were households. Also moving into the town were a water tower, mud run, a couple of churches and some agricultural land.
Garnes said that the annexed properties were added to the town one parcel at a time.
In the past, Garnes explained, some of those properties were part of earlier annexation attempts that fell through. Those seeking to annex in those previous attempts had trouble attaining signatures of 75 percent of the property owners in the area to be annexed.
Another problem with collecting the signatures, Garnes added, was the fact that some of the land being considered for annexation was heirs’ property, which presents difficulties in identifying all the eligible property owners and then obtaining their signatures.
The state allows annexation through three methods: annexation by election when 25 percent of the affected property owners have sought annexation; annexation by petition when 75 percent of the property owners have sought annexation; and 100 percent annexation which requires a request from a single property owner that is approved by council ordinance.
Mayor Colin Moore said the only requirement for a single property owner to come into the city is that the property be contiguous to the town’s boundary.
The ground swell of area residents seeking to become town residents began on Jackson Street, near where a new Love’s Travel Center is being constructed.
The residents on that street were part of a Yemassee doughnut hole. In municipal planning terminology, a doughnut hole is an unincorporated area surrounded by a municipality.
After the Jackson Street annexation petitions were filed, Garnes said, “you had basically a domino effect from then on.” The property owners sought all the annexations, he said.
State law, he explained, prohibits the town staff or employees from soliciting annexation. The town officials can host informational programs on annexation but are not allowed to go door-to-door.
It was the residents seeking to annex into the town that spread the word. “More and more people kept jumping on the bandwagon,” Garnes said.
At Yemassee Town Council’s meeting on July 10, the agenda contained seven second readings on annexation petitions and five first readings. After a second reading approval, the property becomes part of the town.
Garnes said the annexation petitions “have slowed down, but some are still trickling in.”
He said it is unlikely the town council will have “any more marathon sessions.” A couple of weeks ago, he added, council conducted first or second readings on 80 different annexation petitions.
The reasons for seeking to be annexed into Yemassee vary, Garnes said.
“A lot of the people want police protection.” He said that they see the Yemassee cruisers going by. Yemassee town limits are within Beaufort and Hampton counties. Portions of Colleton and Jasper counties are also located nearby. All of the annexed properties are in Hampton County.
Garnes said several of the streets that have been annexed are getting streetlights, the lights and electric bills covered by the town.
Garnes said the streetlights might deter crime. “It offers greater peace piece of mind for the residents.”
Mayor Moore said that an interest in having more of a say in the future of Yemassee has driven some of those decisions.
Those seeking annexation, the mayor said, are so close, so connected to Yemassee. “They listen to what is going on but don’t have a voice.” Being a resident of the town will give them that voice.
The town will benefit with increased revenue. Yemassee counts on property taxes, motor vehicle taxes and franchise fees from utility companies.
The expansion in geography and population will assist the town when it goes after block grant funding.
It will, Garnes said, translate into “a more efficient delivery of services.”

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