Peaks at Chapin
After seeing a recent letter by Liesha Huffstetler in local media outlets and on social media, I felt compelled to share the same information to the public that we shared yesterday with the Lexington County Chronicle regarding the proposed Peaks at Chapin project and the town's involvement in that process.
"There have been inquiries from a number of developers that expressed interest in affordable housing, mainly senior apartments, since 2015, and likewise there have been requests to the town to provide letters stating the need for affordable housing, verification of zoning uses on various parcels and confirmation of the availability of water and sewer access. Town staff provided those as requested, and I signed a letter to Sarah Niemann, as requested, dated February 26, 2016, only restating what our 2011 Comprehensive Plan has said about the Town’s lack of a diversity of housing types. It was not an endorsement, and we had no way of knowing whether Ms. Niemann would successfully submit the project or not. As mayor, I have a duty and responsibility to provide “public” information to individuals if asked and will continue to do so going forward. I didn’t receive confirmation that they had applied until I got a phone call from Chip Huggins on April 1. A letter was sent to Town Hall that was received on March 28, but I was on vacation the entire week.
Upon my return to work on Monday, April 4, we immediately put in motion a request to the developer to come speak to the community at a public meeting which was held on April 6. We allowed the public to question the developer, and the council members and I asked questions as well. Furthermore, we put together a packet of letters and emails from residents stating their dissatisfaction with the proposed Peaks at Chapin project which was hand delivered to Laura Nicholson on April 12, 2016, at the State Housing Authority. Senator Ronnie Cromer and Rep. Huggins submitted similar packages on behalf of the Chapin community.
Staff continued to be in conversation with housing authority officials throughout the summer, and on August 22, we were notified that the proposed Peaks project had not received approval for the tax credit program.
The real conversation needs to be about how we manage the growth that is coming our way, and how can we provide various housing options that fit in our community without losing the small town atmosphere we enjoy here. People, more specifically families, are drawn to our town because of our excellent schools and the opportunity to enjoy a different kind of lifestyle than you might experience in a bustling metropolitan area like Columbia.
As a result of the public comments related to the Peaks at Chapin project, our Planning Commission and Zoning Administrator have submitted several updates to our zoning ordinance to reduce density numbers for our various zoning districts as well as add language related to landscaping, buffers and architectural features we want to see implemented to maintain our small town village feel. The council unanimously approved these changes in our August meeting.
In closing, I would ask – does town hall have a right to say who can and cannot live in our community? I believe that would be considered discrimination, and we certainly don’t want to be known for that. We welcome people that want to work hard and achieve the American dream. We want people who value the importance of a good education and are willing to do what is in the best interest of their families. Chapin has long promoted itself as “a Community of Character.” I am just as committed as anyone else on our council to make sure we continue to model that ideal and hope those coming into Chapin will embrace that way of life as well."
I categorically deny any and all of Ms. Huffstetler's accusations, whether personal, professional or on behalf of the Town Hall staff, that any action was taken to deceive the community or the developers. I welcome all inquiries, questions and concerns relative to this matter and am willing to discuss in detail if anyone still thinks this is an issue besides Ms. Huffstetler. The Peaks at Chapin is not coming to Chapin, and it is time for us to move on.
Sadly, Ms. Huffstetler's actions and misrepresentations continue to create confusion and promote division by only sharing her perceptions of events and actions with a complete disregard for the facts or truth. I have said over and over again publicly, at council meetings and in my weekly columns that if you have a question about what's happening in Chapin to please contact me, and I'd be happy to discuss. That hasn't changed! Email me at email@example.com or call 575-8040 at Town Hall.
Together We Stand – Chapin Proud.
Mayor Skip Wilson