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Dorchester County Council Approves Motion to Include Stipulations in Potential Sale of 500 N Main

Dorchester County, S.C. - Dorchester County Council approved a motion to include stipulations "if feasible" in potential sale of 500 N Main St.

Tonight’s Dorchester County Council meeting was closely watched because of a statement from Councilman Hearn earlier this week. Councilman Hearn expressed that he had planned on Monday night to offer stipulations from the County on the potential buyer & developer for the proposed 500 N Main property that has become a heated debate among local residents.

An excerpt from Hearn’s statement:

“On Monday night, at the next Dorchester County Council meeting, I will make a motion to direct county staff to include specific stipulations in any contract to sell 500 N. Main Street that is brought before County Council for potential approval.

My motion will direct staff to incorporate the following into any sales agreement:

- Requiring the new property owner to preserve the historic county hospital facade

- The veterans’ memorial must be preserved and given to the county

- A civic park be created on the frontage of the property and given to the county to preserve the gateway into Summerville and to “bookend” with Hutchinson Square

- Requiring the new property owner to hold public outreach meetings before seeking development approval from the Town of Summerville”

Tonight when it came time to offer his motion, Mr. Hearn made sure to clarify that there hasn’t been a contract presented or signed yet for the 500 N Main project. He went on to thank citizens for reaching out for their input and passion, but pushed back on claims that these discussions just started a couple weeks ago, claiming discussions on selling the historic government building have been happening from 2019, through 2021, and ever since. Hearn clarified this “was not some back door deal despite what you may read in the letters to the editor”.

Councilman David Chinnis then made a motion to amend Hearn’s motion to include the words “if feasible” when referring to Hearn’s stipulation on the developer keeping the original facade of the historic government building. In theory the amendment would allow a developer to claim it was not feasible to keep the facade of the old building in order to get out of Hearn’s stipulation. Hearn later acknowledged this fact saying “feasibility leaves an out for the potential developer”.

During discussion County Council Chairman Todd Friddle stated that the design put out was just a concept and is not set in stone. He went on to point out that a potential developer won’t design until they own the property and go through a public comment phase. He concluded his remarks by saying there is still a long way to go in this process.

Harriet Holman said that she spoke to veterans and senior citizen groups that showed concern and cautioned her on the project. She went on to request a historical marker for the building.

Chinnis' motion to include "if feasible" went on to pass 4-1-1 with Hearn voting against, Holman abstaining, and Chinnis, Friddle, Ranck, and Crosby voting to pass Chinnis' amendment. Then with a vote of 5-1 Hearn’s motion passed as amended with Hearn, Chinnis, Crosby, Ranck, and Friddle voting for, and Holman voting against. Councilman Jay Byars was absent.

Overall the County Council sent a message tonight that while they’d like these stipulations on a potential new development, they weren’t willing to bind them to any specifics with tonight's motion, which passing Hearn’s original motion would have done.

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As per his usual, Councilman Chinnis has taken the side of builders/developers over the citizens of the county he is supposed to be representing.

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