Battle Lines Form In SC Urbanization Debate

Dispute over chicken plant part of a much bigger debate …

Last week, this news site ran a report on a West Columbia, South Carolina chicken processing plant that’s being targeted by local officials.

What the actual cluck, right?


Here’s what’s happening: West Columbia officials want to capitalize on the urban expansion taking place in downtown Columbia, S.C. (well, some parts of downtown Columbia … not others).  Basically, they want to attract hip, upscale consumers to their parks, eateries and small businesses – a process they claim is being impeded by unpleasant aromas emanating from the chicken plant.

City leaders also want to create new residential and commercial centers in areas that have traditionally been home to manufacturing facilities (or blighted urban shells).

That’s fine with us.  Urban renewal is a good thing … so long as it isn’t subsidized on the backs of taxpayers or used as cover for crony capitalist giveaways.

The downside to West Columbia’s planned “urban revitalization?”  The chicken plant in question is a major local employer – and its operations help subsidize a big chunk of the municipal budget.  Oh, and let’s not forget those antiquated notions of freedom and free markets (concepts often forgotten in our contemporary discourse) – a.k.a. the right of a company to operate as it sees fit on its own property.

Those things still matter, right?

We’ve already weighed in on this drama (siding in favor of the chicken plant) … but apparently this isn’t an isolated situation.

Shortly after our article was published, we began hearing from sources all over the state about what they say is the “bigger picture” related to this dispute.

“You hit on something big in your story … residential pressuring long-time manufacturing at respected companies,” one source from Greenville County, S.C. told us.  “Residential is popping up everywhere next to plants in the Upstate.”

The Midlands and Upstate aren’t alone in dealing with the issue …

“Nobody planned for this growth – or these conflicts,” one Berkeley County, S.C. businessman told us, referring to similar problems in the Palmetto Lowcountry.  “You’ve got powerful competing interests tripping over each other and more and more finding themselves at each others’ throats.”

The battle lines?  County and municipal ordinances intended to define – or redefine – what constitutes a public “nuisance.”  We’re also told complaints to state agencies – including the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – are off the charts.

Who are the players?   On the one side are manufacturing leaders who have aligned with the state’s trial lawyer lobby in an effort to push back against these ordinances.  On the other?  Environmentalists and politicians eager to use the new rules to “transition” their communities.

Who has the advantage?  Right now the upper hand appears to belong to the manufacturers and trial lawyers, who have been successful up to this point in branding governments as discriminatory against select corporations.

Our view?

Circumstantial discernment is needed …

Adopting an absolutist response to this debate would be foolish, because each situation is different.  As we noted in our initial post, cases involving competing liberties require us to weigh each side of a specific dispute against the other in the hopes of striking the appropriate balance – i.e the demarcation line where one interests’ freedom ends and the other begins.

Clearly no two cases are ever going to be the same …

This news site is biased toward freedom and free markets.  But that’s something easily said … and much harder to consistently apply.  Sounds like we’ll have plenty of opportunities in the near future to make such judgment calls, though, as this “bigger picture” issue doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

That reminds us …

Do you know of a similar situation transpiring in your neck of the woods?  Get in touch with us via any of the means below …



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