Georgetown won't force tidying

Georgetown residents will not be responsible for maintaining public rights of way.

The City Council voted 5-1 to kill an ordinance proposal that would have required property owners to maintain the right of way abutting their property.

"We're coming across to our businesses and residents as being very heavy-handed," said Councilwoman Jeanette Ard at Tuesday night's meeting.

She said the city needs to encourage people to maintain rights of way rather than mandate it.

The ordinance change was introduced by city administrator Chris Eldridge at a previous meeting. He said the public works staff is stretched very thin and having residents help would let the staff focus on the high-visibility areas that people often complain are not maintained.

Most of the right of way the city is paying to maintain is actually owned by the S.C. Department of Transportation, Eldridge said.

"This isn't city of Georgetown right of way," he said. "The state is dumping more and more back on local government."

There are about 100 miles or around 75 acres of public right of way in the city, the majority of which is in the area between the edge of the street and property lines, according to a map provided at the meeting.

Eldridge said some cities have stopped cutting the grass in DOT-owned rights of way.

But that should not be considered an option for Georgetown, said Councilwoman Peggy Wayne.

"I don't think the city can stop keeping the right of way cut," she said. "To keep our city beautiful we're going to have to keep cutting the grass."

She suggested that the city get in touch with the DOT to try to get it to maintain the right of way.

Councilman Brendon Barber took it a step further saying that the city should look into ways to "see how we can legally force the DOT to do their job."

"It's not fair to us at all," he said. "It's just sad. We can't get nothing out of the state."

Mayor Jack Scoville was the lone vote against killing the ordinance change.

Also Thursday, the council approved an additional $30,000 to be spent on the Harborwalk renovation.

M.B. Kahn requested $30,321.94 more from the city to make unforeseen repairs to the Harborwalk.

The repairs include replacing some support beams that were split down the middle and repairing the underlying structure of the Harborwalk near Francis Marion Park.

The underlying structure near the park bows outward and is out of alignment with the rest of the walkway, according to meeting documents.

The council voted 5-1, with Ard dissenting, to approve the request.

Eldridge said the project is still under the $600,000 originally budgeted for it. With the approved change the project will now have a budget of $560,272.

The council also approved spending $43,521 allocated in its current budget for playground equipment and materials for Ben Cooper Park as part of the city's ongoing effort to increase the safety and quality of its parks.