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Abbeville officials: Regulations would protect residents

In May of last year, Abbeville officials developed a new comprehensive plan to help guide potential and future growth of the 4-square-mile town. One aspect of that plan that was adopted in July was to take a look at building codes, subdivision regulations and zoning.

Thursday evening, town officials held a public forum to discuss and explain those three hot-button topics and get feedback from the community.

About 20 residents and officials were on hand to hear urban planner Chris Watson, who developed the town’s comprehensive plan, describe the difference between the three regulations and how they could help the community preserve their way of life.

Watson said that without some type of land-use regulations, Abbeville was open for any type of development and has no control. He used the example that if someone wanted, they could put in an adult entertainment business in town since there are no regulations to prevent such a business.

“Zoning is like life insurance,” Watson explained. “You don’t need zoning until you need zoning.”

Watson opened the floor to questions from residents and many of whom were adamantly against any type of regulations they feel will regulate and control what they can do with their property.

Mayor Scott Fricker reminded many in the crowd that none of these regulations have been adopted or implemented and the public hearing was a means to receive feedback from the community. He explained that town officials are not trying to dictate what individuals can and cannot do with their property, but rather protect them from certain types of unwanted development.

“We are not trying to stop anybody from doing anything,” Fricker said. “We’re just trying to keep anything that we don’t want to happen in this community from happening. And we’ve got to have a little something on the books to stop it.”

One resident was concerned that Lafayette County could possibly soon have a comprehensive plan that may include land use regulations to protect development and force those unwanted businesses to take up roots within Abbeville’s city limits if the town does not adopt some type of zoning.

“That’s scary to think about,” he said.

One resident suggested creating a volunteer planning commission to monitor development.

County Supervisor David Rikard reminded those in attendance that the county is the fastest growing in the state and one of the fastest growing in the nation.

“Everybody keeps saying this isn’t going to happen, but everybody has their price,” Rikard said, adding that the 2,300-acre development known as Oxford Springs located just outside Abbeville is a “diamond in the rough.”

“If you don’t think people are trying to get close to this big development that is coming, your neighbor that will never sell is going to sell,” Rikard said. “This is really to protect y’all’s way of life as it is right now.”

Flicker said the next step would be to hire Watson to develop subdivision regulations, building codes and zoning regulations for the town officials to review.

“Something very simple, very basic and very Abbeville friendly,” Flicker said. More public hearings would occur before anything would be voted upon by the board.