After two long years of fussin' and fightin' with a band of zoning opponents, the Edgefield County Council finally bit the bullet Tuesday, voting 4-1 to bring a zoning ordinance to the county for the first time ever.
It was a long, hard, even bitter, battle -- and for now the forces of commonsense and progress have triumphed. Even though the zoning affects only about 10 percent of the county, it impacts most on the fastest growing and most populous section, the southern Merriwether community.
The ordinance was passed at the behest of homeowners to protect their property values. Understandably, they did not want junkyards, nightclubs or other incompatible businesses to move into their expanding neighborhoods.
But reasonable zoning is also a mark of economic progress. As county Administrator Wayne Adams points out, protecting residential property values is a prerequisite to attracting quality investments -- the kind of investments that broaden a community's tax base and generate revenues to pay for better schools and improved police and fire protection.
Adams, of course, is right; but for two years now he and the county council have been engaged in trench warfare with property owners who zealously contend that zoning ordinances violate their right to do with their property as they wish. They've packed hearings, demanded studies, urged referendums, gone to court; in short, done everything they could think of to shoot down or delay the council's decision.
In fairness, some of these property owners, especially those who sell roadside produce from their small farms, have a legitimate beef. They could find the zoning law bans their activities, or subjects them to regulations.
Despite the new law, zoning foes haven't given up. They seek to overturn the ordinance in court. That is a waste of time and money. If foes still believe a majority of voters support their opposition to zoning, they can take it to the ballot box -- by campaigning to oust the four councilmen who voted for it. All five council seats are at stake in this year's election.
If the incumbents prevail, though, as we suspect they will, zoning opponents would be doing a great service if they finally put this divisive issue behind them and let the community come together and heal its wounds.
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