Primary Election Results: Changes Coming at Greenville County Council

Major party primaries were held June 9, and a run off in some of those races was held June 23. The results are in and some big changes are coming at Greenville County Council in January 2021.

Seven seats on County Council will be on the ballot in November, and at least three will be occupied by new council members when they are sworn in on January 5:

  • Councilman Sid Cates is retiring in District 20. Steve Shaw, an attorney and member of the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals, won the Republican Primary and faces Democrat Farris Johnson in the Fall.
  • Councilman Rick Roberts sought a second term, but lost his bid in the Republican Primary. Republican Chris Harrison, a commercial real estate broker and member of the Planning Commission, will be the new council member in District 21. The Democratic Party did not field a candidate.
  • Councilman Bob Taylor is retiring in District 22. Stan Tzouvelekas, a restaurateur, won the Republican Primary and runoff and faces Democrat Samantha Wallace in November.

These council members also face challengers in November:

  • Councilwoman Liz Seman (R) faces Amanda McDougald Scott (D) in District 24. Seman has represented the district since 2008. She is Chief of Staff to the President of Furman University. Scott is a graduate student at Clemson University.
  • Councilman Ennis Fant (D) faces Ben Carper (R) in District 25. Dr. Fant is a real estate and insurance professional, a minister, and professor. Dr. Carper is a real estate professional and retired minister.
  • Chairman Butch Kirven (R) faces Will Morin (D) in District 27. Kirven is a real estate appraiser and retired from the S.C. National Guard. Morin is a political and environmental activist.

Councilman Mike Barnes (R) did not draw a challenger in the primary or in the General Election and will continue to represent District 18.

Greenville County Council has 12 seats.

New Greenville Water Meter Offset Policy is in Effect

For the last two months a small team of HBA members and staff has worked with Greenville Water to work out the details on implementation of their new process on water meter offsets. This is what you can expect on Monday for lots with existing taps:

  1. You will be able to offset the meter from the tap, up to 10 feet, as has been the practice for more than 30 years.
  2. You will not be required to kill the tap and relocate it.
  3. For existing lots, if paved and the tap is under the driveway:
    • Dig back to the curb and pull the lateral to the side (without bending it of course) so that the meter is outside the pavement, with no coupling. The meter can be in the greenspace between the sidewalk and the street. GW will allow an elbow at the meter to reorient it toward the house.
    • If digging back does not resolve the problem, the meter may be placed in the driveway with a meter box specified by GW. However, the driveway must have expansion joints cut 2′ above and below the meter box so that driveway repairs in the future are minimized.
    • If all else fails, a GW-specified coupling can be used at the direction of GW.

This change will be effective June 8.

For lots created after June 8, the water tap should be located to ensure that conflicts with the driveway location are avoided. Greenville Water’s guidance to place the tap in the middle of the lot has ended. Developers will place the tap in the location that ensures it is not under the driveway. Be mindful that the water tap may not be in the same trench with the sewer tap. And note that the options above for existing lots will not apply to new lots.

Assume that lot creation means the point at which a water line is installed on the lot.

For most lots going forward, locating the water line correctly will avoid any problems. However, some lots, like town homes, can still be challenging. GW will work with you and your engineer and developer to tackle these issues to include potentially burying extra pipe to accommodate an offset to a meter without a coupling or locating the meter in the driveway.

Greenville Water Meter Reset Fee to Increase
When Greenville Water comes to your site to set the meter, and is unable to do so because of a condition on the site, they currently charge $40 to return to the site. That also changes with the change in practice on offsets. The new fee will be $250.

Scheduling Ahead of Time is Important, But Not Too Far Ahead of Time
Greenville Water schedules their meter sets five days after you call. They suggest that you not schedule the meter set on the day you prep your site for the meter. Instead, schedule the meter set and prep the site the day before the meter is scheduled to be set. This will avoid one of the biggest problems with a site prepped for a meter several days ahead of time: rain. Most of the time the reason why a meter is not set when scheduled is because the trench is full of water. This also will prevent another problem: rainwater running down the water line and undermining the street.

Note that Greenville Water now requires their field team to photograph the site when they have set the meter. They also require them to photograph the site if they are unable to set the meter. So if the field team is being unreasonable, GW management will address it (and has).

We Need Your Help! Last Call!
If you have existing lots that you think will be impacted by the change in offset and will need to use one of the three options listed above, please email Michael Dey this week at MDey@HBAofGreenville.com.

Section 3.1 Challenged in Court by HBA Member Niemitalo, Inc.

Section 3.1 Challenged in Court by HBA Member Niemitalo, Inc.

In January 2018, Greenville County Council amended the Land Development Regulations over the objections of your Home Builders Association of Greenville. More than 30 members attended the meeting to tell County Council “no.” The ordinance was amended six months after six members of your HBA worked for more than three years on an overhaul to the LDR.

Two months later, after a quick review with the help of three members: Jamie McCutchen, Paul Harrison, and Jay Beeson, County Council removed most of the January changes, with the exception of Section 3.1.

In April, the Planning Commission began enforcing Section 3.1 and the flaws in the ordinance, which we pointed out to County Council, quickly became apparent.

In June, the Planning Commission approved a subdivision proposed by Niemitalo, Inc., an HBA member. After some behind the scenes intervention by a member of County Council, the Planning Commission reconsidered their decision in July 2018 and denied Niemitalo’s subdivision, a 30-lot single family development on 30 acres in the unzoned area of Northern Greenville County.

Brian and Bruce Niemitalo, partners in Niemitalo, Inc., appealed their decision in September after receiving written notice of the denial. They were not notified that the Planning Commission would reconsider their earlier decision.

NAHB’s Legal Action Fund Steps in to Help
Your Home Builders Association immediately went to work to help Niemitalo, Inc. We had the county’s Land Development Regulations reviewed by NAHB’s Legal Department. They provided us with several recommendations. They also told us they consider Section 3.1 “unconstitutionally vague.” They also told us they are concerned that allowing an ordinance like ours to go unchallenged could set a precedent for other unzoned areas around the country. Adding to the urgency, a neighboring property owner intervened as a party in the appeal, and she is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, an nonprofit law firm based in Raleigh that focuses on the environment.

Your HBA of Greenville applied for support from NAHB’s Legal Action Fund and in January 2019 they approved a grant of $10,000 to help Niemitalo, Inc., with their challenge.

The latest and more help from NAHB
After 18 months of legal wrangling, Greenville County and Niemitalo, Inc., came to an agreement to settle with the approval of the subdivision. At that time, the county ceased enforcing Section 3.1 in the unzoned areas. However, the neighbor refused to approve the settlement.

Without an approval for their project, in April Niemitalo, Inc., made their next move and filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Section 3.1 and last month your HBA of Greenville applied for and received another grant of $10,000 from NAHB in support of Niemitalo, Inc.’s, latest cause of action.

“This situation is just one example of the importance of our Home Builders Association and the support it brings to our industry,” said Bill Kane, APB, President of your Home Builders Association of Greenville and Division Manager of Ryan Homes. “It is also just one of many reasons why every business in the Home Building Industry should support our Home Builders Association.”

Support for Vested Rights
This case also has one other benefit for Home Builders: potential case law in support of the Vested Rights Act. Your Home Builders Association actively lobbied for the Vested Rights Act in 2002. Our Vice President of Government Affairs, Michael Dey, was the lobbyist on that bill.

A decision in this case could benefit all Home Builders both in invalidating Section 3.1 and supporting the Vested Rights Act. All Home Builders owe Brian and Bruce Niemitalo their thanks for challenging Greenville County and their anti-housing and anti-development policies.

Child Care Vouchers for Essential Employees

As part of the CARES Act money received by the State of South Carolina, SCDSS is offering child care assistance for parents who work in businesses that have been deemed essential based on Governor McMaster’s Executive Orders. Your Home Builders Association has been in contact with DSS staff and construction is deemed essential even though it isn’t listed in the documents linked below.
The deadline to apply is Friday!
In order to qualify, you must be currently working at an essential business (construction is essential), you must need child care so you may continue to work, and you must complete a child care application by Friday, May 8. You do not have to meet any income guidelines for this limited program.
If you or any member of your team would like to apply and believe you meet the criteria, please email Christi Jeffcoat. In the email, you will need to provide your first and last name, the best phone number to reach you, and your occupation and the business where you work. In the subject line, please put “Essential Employee Child Care Request”. Upon receipt of your email, DSS staff will coordinate with you by sending you the child care application and any other information that may help you find child care.
CARES Act Documents for Childcare Vouchers

SCDEW Recall Task Force

As a part of Governor Henry McMaster’s accelerateSC initiative to get South Carolina working again, SC Department of Employment and Workforce has launched a Recall Task Force to help employers bring their teams back to work. Most of our members have not needed to furlough employees. In fact, Home Building has been the one bright spot in the economy in the Upstate. However, if you have furloughed employees and need help recalling them, download this letter from SCDEW, which has instructions for recalling employees and resources available for doing so.

Stimulus Funding for Professional Trade Associations

Did you know that professional trade association’s like your Home Builders Association were among the few groups not eligible for stimulus funding? And like nearly all nonprofit organizations, ours has been impacted by the economic shutdown.
That is why your HBA signed onto a letter from the US Chamber of Commerce calling on Congress to provide stimulus funding to association’s like the HBA and the Chamber. We were one of more than 1,000 that signed the letter, and the only HBA in South Carolina to sign it. You can read the letter here.
Your HBA’s Board of Directors will be asking your to help the association that is helping your business remain essential. Watch for that request soon.