Welcome to Rouen's Rants
March 12th, 2023
Well folks…let’s talk about Sewer South and a few lessons learned. In this case, you win some and lose some. The political power of a few were too strong. But you learned some valuable lessons on who to trust in the future.
I am PRO DEVELOPMENT! But I ONLY support smart development with proper due diligence that benefits Oconee citizens in the long run. Oconee is changing and we all have to accept it. People are moving in and they have different ideas. There are lifelong residents who are ready for their own change, and many who are selling to fund new dreams. We are all different and we should embrace that because it makes us stronger.
>> My issue with Sewer South was simple and I stated it multiple times. Millions in costs and not one public official made any effort to do a good faith estimate on benefits and risks. They simply spouted smoke about jobs and later celebrated accomplishing something they have been trying to do for decades. Why does it matter if it fails like Golden Commerce Park? I bet there was no due diligence done for Commerce Park either. We should learn from our mistakes. Anything else is arrogance. Speaking of arrogance… even the Journal bashed me (not Riley Morningstar) stating government was not like private business. Basically saying my 50 years in business was worth squat when I pushed for benefits/risks.That is BS. I earned my ‘stripes.’ All it did was convince me there were more agendas in play than I thought. Counties all over America do it. How else would you make the right decision with so many priorities facing a citizen base with limited funding. Millions of taxpayer dollars, taking advantage of farmers, a crap track record with Commerce Park in Fair Play and not willing to do any proper due diligence? I expect that from the OCC because I trust nothing they say. They proved to me they were not trustworthy when they quickly screwed the farmers and forgot they were supposed to be financially conservative. But not government officials controlling OUR money! So now you know and I get no pleasure telling you I told you so for the last 18 months.
> Moving on. Planning in Oconee sucks. We have a Planning Commission dominated by OCC Planning Commissioner David Nix and his OCC attack dogs hiding in the weeds to attack whenever someone makes recommendations for sensible planning. You saw my letter to County Council after I spoke before the Planning Commission as a private citizen. Nix took to FB stating I was using Marxist tactics. Perry Smith posted for people to confront me in public. County Attorney David Root did squat sitting quietly as an Oconee County public official (Nix) being paid with my tax dollars attacked a private citizen. Now the Planning Commission is hiring 2 intern ‘urban planners who will get eaten alive by the group playing politics. That will accomplish nothing. It is only to give the image to the County they are doing something. A delay tactic so the Commission doesn’t have to make tough decisions as the County continues to head down the path of no controls with developers taking advantage of taxpayers with a few profiting handsomely. A Planning Commission role is not easy at all. But if you are paralyzed to the point of not being able to do the right thing, resign. That shows you actually care. Let someone else take over that is willing to fight for us. Anything less hurts your fellow citizens.
I bought 12 acres on Stokes Drive in Seneca. A small road that ran directly in front of a Keowee subdivision. 100% UNRESTRICTED!! Three months after purchasing I was offered double the money from a developer. They showed me their plans. A subdivision with 40 to 60 mobile homes. Double my money. Jeeezzz. I turned it down and took 2 years to develop a beautiful setting of 7 lots with road frontage. No subdivision! When I had the deeds created I had the same restrictions attached to the deeds that were in my Lake Keowee HOA, but smaller home requirements. I knew the road would never be able to handle 40 to 60 mobile homes. But double the money for 3 months of no work is an interesting investment. The OCC is welcome to check county records before they spout BS. Go for it!
There’s nothing free in this world. There will be a big price to pay for the lack of due diligence with Sewer South and a much bigger price to pay for the many buying in to the OCC BS that proper controlled planning is meant only to steal a property owner’s rights.
> But the best attack was launched by suspended Councilman Durham last year in front of Council stating it was the Communists and Socialists who knew to take our country they have to strip people of their private property rights. He deserved an Academy Award for saying that without laughing. And for those who bought in to that utter crap? No complaining when you get hit hard in the future with sky high property taxes. Actions have consequences and when you believe statements long on drama and zero facts, you pay for the ‘show.’
Stay safe, be kind to each other and please don’t be a Penelope.
JaZy YERBA with one Z!
March 6th, 2023
Fans! Today we will talk about Perry Smith’s posts on his Personal Booger Blogger. Not to be confused with the Ms. Adams’ Booger Eater Rambler.
I have attached 2 posts below. Ms. Penelope is freaking out about my new page. He calls it: “The deranged ramblings of an old man from Seneca.” I like that. But his best is next to my new pic. “Here’s the uniparty democrat the OCRP runs with and takes all of their direction from. This is the leader of the current OCRP.” Lawd Lawd. I read that and it made me breathless!
Penelope is running scared. He is losing followers because he is boring and people now realize that Karl on Sling Blade has more depth on political issues than Penelope. Penelope has never grown up. You can’t blame him considering his friend Durham controls him as he walks him on a leash nightly so he can make poo. When Penelope threatened your favorite cohosts, we reported it to the sheriff. And when he crosses the line again, his new ‘safe place’ will be a cage. I have been told DIRECTLY by 2 people he has threatened them and, in both cases, Durham stepped in to call him off. Strange. Is it staged? There is no place in Oconee County for this type of behavior by ANYBODY. When it happens, file a police report. Yep. So sad. A grown ass man playing silly games using his size to intimidate. Not impressed. Society handles people like this all the time by putting them right where they belong. What’s sad is Penelope has a family that loves him. Yet he risks everything. Why? I also heard Penelope sued an elementary school because he thought a bunch of 5 year olds were being taught CRT. Can someone please provide that story and correct me if I am wrong? Does he have something against Cinco de Mayo? On his Personal Booger Blogger he uses words considered to be antisemitic slurs against Jews by the American Jewish Committee. Why? I wonder if his company headquartered in France is aware. People have lost their jobs for that no matter how many years of service they had.
Stay safe, be kind to each other and please don’t be a Penelope.
JaZy Yerba with one Z!
March 5th, 2023
This is Chris Rouen from Let’s Talk Oconee. I have attachments proving the Council and the Planning Commission were well aware in advance about the serious infrastructure issues we face. I have been saying this for years and most recently summarized issues and my recommendations in 2 meetings (November 21 and December 5). I then followed up with a complete report-out email to County Council on December 18. There have been some hard discussions recently about Sewer South. Myself and my cohosts Jeff Bright, Cathy Littleton and Rannie Bond, all stand with YOU on this waste of taxpayer dollars. Corporations ALWAYS provide 2 numbers before they approve major expenditures. The first is the financial benefits that will be generated and the next are the TRUE costs. For Sewer South there are NO DEFINED financial benefits for spending millions of dollars. None! And Amanda Brock and the Council have NO PLANS to do it. That is simply spending money recklessly. Money we desperately need for our current failing infrastructure and roads. We have a Council and a Planning Commission that are PAID to protect us. Both have been paralyzed by the Oconee County Conservatives! The same group that bullies whenever we are dealing with the County budget for essential services. For years they have touted their support for farmers. As soon as this was announced WITH NO DEFINED BENEFITS, they jumped to support it belittling anybody that challenged by saying we don’t care about jobs. Yet, they have NO data to support this. Only ‘smoke.’
After the November 21st presentation as a private citizen, I was attacked on Facebook by the OCC Vice President Perry Smith and Planning Commissioner David Nix who is also the OCC Spokesperson. Nix stated I was using the Marxist (Communist) tactics of fearmongering. I do not like or respect Nix. He used an anti-Semitic slur for Jews against me last year in a Journal post. Think about that from an Oconee County public official and what it means should a diverse developer ever challenge a Planning decision. That will be County Attorney David Root’s problem but if any settlement were to be made it would be with our tax dollars. Facts matter.
Please read the below and stand strong against what you see hurts OUR community.
Here is my letter to Council and the nasty attacking OCC posts by Smith/Perry are attached.
Dear Messrs., Elliott, Cain, Davis, Hart and Ms. Brock:
Please forward to Mr. Mize since he does not have a public email address.
I have spoken twice (11/21, 12/5) to the Planning Commission regarding what I believe to be serious issues due to inadequate preparation of our county infrastructure moving forward. I believe this could cause taxpayers millions of dollars in special assessments over the next 10 years.
Below the ‘Summary’ is what was distributed to our Planning Commissioners prior to the 12/5 meeting. It has my recommendations and 3 articles. I would like to provide a quick summary of what I have included but first want to extend my personal thanks to the following people for their respect in listening to my concerns about a ‘financial cliff for taxpayers’ and my ‘2 step’recommendation.
I thank Frankie Pearson and Pat Williams for their consideration in listening and offering me valued input on issues faced by the County. In the Dec 5thmeeting, Don Mize was in the audience. He listened respectfully and I could tell he was really listening to my message. I thank him for that and have high hopes for Oconee County as he joins the Council. I also thank Teresa Spicer, Alex Vassey, Gary Gaulin and Mike Johnson for their respect and consideration.
April Journal articles (April 15/April 20) are a good indicator of problems we are facing. They quote Commissioners sharing what they consider to be ‘Red Flags.’ This is an indicator to me that the problems are actually worse than what has been stated. The April 27 article is the political reality we face.
I have spoken many times about Woodruff Road in Greenville. They are spending $121 million dollars of taxpayer money to work on one road that is a true nightmare for citizens and the work will not be completed until 2029. It has been said by some that Woodruff is not a good indicator because it is ALL COMMERCIAL. That is not true. My wife grew up on 5 acres on Rocky Creek Road that feeds directly into Woodruff. That area now is entirely residential with high density homes and a nightmare for residents.
We do NOT know objectively what problems we are facing on infrastructure because we have never had an objective analysis done by a professional Planning Consulting Company experienced with the types of issues we face. An independent company staffed by professional urban/rural consultants would have that experience having worked in many locations across the country facing the same challenges. I provided a clear outline of a ‘2 step process’ to the Commission (see below) of what I am proposing. I have also volunteered to be a part of the team working with Mr. Coley vetting the consultants, creating a clear Statement of Work and helping with countywide communication. My experience can be found on LinkedIn. After retirement, I created my own consulting company (Rouen Consulting) specializing in high-risk projects that are experiencing serious disconnects and delivery issues. I do not want people, through no fault of their own, losing their homes due to infrastructure failures which could add millions of special assessments to an already overburdened family.
Two Commissioners and I had a good discussion after the Dec 5th meeting. They agreed with my recommendations but stated that hiring consultants could cost several thousand dollars. I said yes it could. But it is nothing compared to the $50 to $150 million dollars or more in risk to our citizens. They understood my concerns. Step 1 will provide the objective financial analysis we need. We can then communicate to our citizens the risk they face on our current path including options to mitigate that risk or continue as we are. The key to this communication is objectivity vs. the emotionality of a small special interest group spouting, what I consider to be nonsense, that citizen land will be ‘controlled by the government.’ After our citizens are informed, they will be the arbiters of whether we continue as we are or move to Step 2 using professional consultants to help us plan to mitigate our financial risks.
On a more personal note, my grandparents on BOTH sides lost their homes during the Great Depression. My parents never carried a mortgage. They worked extra hours to pay their home off. When I asked my father why, he told me: “Nobody is going to take my home. It happened to my parents. It can happen to me.” I was really taken aback, and it has stuck with me because I knew it was a very emotional memory. We have good hard-working citizens in Oconee. Citizens that have worked their entire lives asking for nothing and working hard to provide for their families. A doubling of taxes to cover special assessments for infrastructure failures could force them out of their homes. That is unconscionable and we should make it a priority to not let that happen.
From: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, December 5, 2022 12:59 PM
To: Planning-Jim Coley <email@example.com>
Subject: Mr. Coley. I am requesting this be distributed for tonight's meeting. Journal articles PLUS my input on Step 1 and Step 2.
Here are the articles I used excerpts from in my discussion with the Commission November 21st.
I am requesting that you please forward to the Planning Commission members for this evening’s meeting since I do not have their personal email addresses.
I will speaking tonight because there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the air about zoning and a misunderstanding about my proposal that we follow a 2 step process.
Based on what I have seen and what I read, I see problems now and bigger problems in the future.
I am NOT advocating Zoning or any potential solution. I stated that very clearly. I am not an expert. We have a ‘Special Interest Group’ that has already begun a MISINFORMATION Campaign about Zoning meant to deter the County from acting sensibly to protect citizens.
We have ‘symptoms’ of big issues facing us as evidenced in the articles. That is a fact and saying we are ‘panicking’ has nothing to do with dealing with facts.
Suspended Councilman Durham challenged me Saturday about Growth. I believe he is saying we should do nothing because Growth is dropping. The issues are numerous and NOT necessarily Growth. What we are doing today is NOT what works for ‘tomorrow’.
Having an assessment done by PROFESSIONAL Planning Consultants who have experience with the ‘good/bad’ across the country allows us to AVOID problems we do not clearly see.
At this time, I am ONLY advocating Step 1 which will provide an INDEPENDENT/OBJECTIVE appraisal of what we could improve and what the ‘Penalty’ will be to citizens if NOT addressed.‘ Penalty’ could be Special Tax Assessments for infrastructure failures or a ‘Quality of Life’ deterioration. People can lose their homes.
Step 1 will be shared with the Community to ask questions, etc. Step 2 ONLY happens if there is agreement to move to Step 2 to work on Solutions to issues identified in Step 1.
3 articles going down (April 15th) from oldest to newest (April 27th).
Oconee official: ‘We’re not planning for the future’
By Lauren Pierce
WALHALLA — Some members of the Oconee County Planning Commission recently expressed concerns of uncontrolled growth in the county amid reviewing nine already approved future subdivisions.
County planning director James Coley said subdivisions include The Cliffs area, one on S.C. Highway 28, another near Mountain and Clearmont roads and additional student housing in The Pier area.
Commissioner Pat Williams expressed concern about the significant high-density subdivision growth with limited ability to address the impact these have on agricultural lands and other areas.
Affordable housing was discussed as well.
“I believe somewhere in the $240,000 range for a new house in the county now maybe,” Williams said. “A man making $20 an hour, a wife and two kids can’t afford $240,000 house. But that’s nothing we can control. We don’t build houses, the county don’t build houses. … I looked at a 16-by-80 mobile home the other day — just to get some prices — $96,000. A 28-by-40 mobile home — $157,000. That’s outside of workforce price range.”
“Affordable housing is something that the county has been in need of addressing, especially as prices are going up and whatnot,” commissioner Mike Johnson added. “The county, while we don’t build houses, we do control certain things. … Affordable housing is typically going to be more of a municipality, but it is something that the county is going to have to start looking at specifically because of the growth that’s hitting certain areas.”
Commissioner Mike Smith said education for zoning may be needed, with Johnson responding, “education is a process on that.”
Coley added spot zoning is illegal, but groups of adjacent parcels sharing a border can apply for rezoning.
“Any property owner or group of property owners of a parcel or parcels with a combined minimum ownership of at least 50 acres may petition (Oconee) County Council for initial rezoning,” he said.
Coley said he couldn’t discern if land extending from one of the subdivisions was developable.
“That appalls me, guys, that the county has no say-so on the books or that we got no ordinances, regulations or anything that we can say, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t consider this,” Williams said. “We have no power.”
“If they meet the minimum standards, then they meet them,” Coley responded.
The lack of green space was also mentioned.
“We’re not saving any trees to give us a little bit of oxygen to breathe once they put all these houses in there,” chairman Frankie Pearson said. “There’s no place for anything other than park your car and go in your house.”
On the table again
Smith said the commission seems to talk about these types of issues, but not meet its responsibility by dealing with them.
“Well, we see a problem, and we’re not addressing the problem,” Smith responded. “We’re not planning for the future.”
“And we’ve been kicking that can for five years. I’m not opposed to that conversation,” Johnson said. “I just think tonight was to kind of go through it, and we have become again aware that there’s been some issues out there that should we be addressing and how.”
Williams offered to get information to make a motion that addressed the issues discussed before the next meeting, set for Monday, with the commissioners agreeing to have subdivisions back on the agenda.
“I would recommend — if you guys want to bring something to the table — go through the comprehensive plan, look to see what applies here,” commissioner David Nix said. “And then you can propose something, a motion that’s clear and understandable and compliant with the comprehensive plan. And then we’ll see where that goes.”
April 20th Article
Planning Commission talks zoning, private property rights
By Lauren Pierce
WALHALLA — The Oconee County Planning Commission narrowly voted this week to create a subcommittee some members believe focuses on zoning.
Commissioner Pat Williams made a motion at Monday’s meeting to form a subcommittee to “review the housing density at certain size subdivisions to include green space, stormwater management and lot size.”
The motion, which passed 4-3, came after county resident David Taylor said his property rights were “violated.” Taylor questioned why people weren’t given “a chance to appeal” a subdivision planned off Mountain Road in Westminster, near where he lives.
“Private property rights is an issue and is a concern. … There’s two sides to the property rights thing, and I’m an agriculture guy … and I want the right to farm,” Williams said. “I want the right to do what I do on my farmland, but I have respect for my neighbors.
“And we can work those things out when you have a large entity that can come in that’s got deep pockets that can just grade off something with no regard to the neighbors,” he added. “There’s going to be some people happy, some are not happy, and I respect everybody’s rights. So, that’s why I think as a community we can continue to negotiate and compromise with each other.”
‘What we’re talking about here is zoning’
Commissioner Mike Johnson said people talk about both sides of property rights, but “only judge it when called by a different name.”
“If we call this John Doe and Bill Smith, its neighbor to neighbor — but all of a sudden, if we call this Mr. Developer and this John Doe, then it’s a problem,” Johnson said. “But it’s Mr. Smith, it was his property and his right to sell it to the developer to begin with.
“What we’re talking about here is zoning,” he added. “Because that’s really what it boils down to is, ‘Are we going to zone this private owner so that he can no longer sell to a developer?” and we’ve just refused him and taken away his property right to develop that to its best use.”
According to the county’s planning and zoning information, Oconee implemented a citizen-initiated zoning enabling ordinance in May 2009. All land within the county is zoned in the Control Free District, which doesn’t limit use until rezoning is requested by locals.
“We’re having change in the county,” Johnson said. “The more dense the county gets, maybe the more need we have for zoning.”
“All of this is zoning, no matter what you call it. … It is a type of zoning, but some of it is required,” chairman Frankie Pearson said. “We have to have some type of standards. … It’s a bad word in this county, but that’s what it is.”
The commission debated whether a subcommittee would be the best way to address concerns.
“I think homework and broad ideas brought to the table is not a bad thing. … This is too big a subject for two or three people to knock around ideas and bring back an agenda,” Johnson said. “I think that if we are going to go after this zoning animal — this elephant in the room — it needs to be done right there in front of that camera.”
Commissioner Alex Vassey brought up past problems of “understanding zoning.”
“It is something that can be used correctly and done well, but I think a lot of the issues stem from people not completely understanding what it can and can’t do,” he said. “I think the best platform to discuss it is probably up here where people can come out and speak and can be heard.”
Though the motion didn’t openly include zoning, there were concerns the subcommittee would debate zoning without all commissioners being involved.
“It’s not a zoning thing. Like you say, it probably will end up zoning. … I promise you … that our focus will be on density and the topics that I’ve set here,” said Williams, who was elected chair of the subcommittee.
April 27th Article (McMahan interview)
McMahan warns zoning ‘coming back up soon’
By Riley Morningstar
SENECA — In a separate video posted on his personal Facebook page Tuesday that was filmed over the weekend, McMahan shared his views on zoning in Oconee after bush hogging his property, calling it “tractor therapy.”
Before talking zoning, McMahan discussed the state of the political party he chairs.
“The Republican Party in Oconee County is alive and well. I do have some people that doesn’t agree with anything I say,” he said. “Some of ‘em are mad and got their lip poked out because I won the chairmanship back at our last convention (in April 2021) but that’s OK, that’s usually the way it is. … There’s just some people that don’t want to work with me.”
He said he was “not going to cower down to the moderates.”
“I’m not going to cower down to the people who say, ‘Oh David, you shouldn’t say that. You’re going to offend somebody. You’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings,’ McMahan said. “You folks that have known me for years know that’s not me. I’m straight and to the point. …
“There are some people that just don’t like (bringing up pro-life and Second Amendment stances). But you know what? ‘Oh well.’ I’m the Republican chairman. That’s the way it’s going to be,” he added. “If I’m offending somebody, again, ‘Oh well.’”
McMahan then shifted to saying “zoning is coming back up soon” at the county level.
“If you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, listen to me now. There’s still such a thing that’s called citizen-initiated zoning in this county,” he said. “That means you as a community can petition for your community, your area, to be zoned the way you want it to be.”
McMahan said he wasn’t against zoning, but that he was “against big government who will zone you the way you don’t want to be zoned.”
“I’m telling you, you’ve got to fight fire with fire,” he said. “If you go up there and find out your community is about to be zoned by some other bunch of people that wants to zone you the way they want you to be, don’t do that, folks. Don’t ignore this.”