Push for new Midlands county in limbo

tflach@thestate.comNovember 17, 2013 

Sailboats on Lake Murray.

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com Buy Photo

— A bid to create a new county on the north side of Lake Murray appears at a standstill.

Community and neighborhood leaders say mystery surrounds the proposal, with nothing more heard since it was unveiled 10 months ago.

“I don’t know if it’s died or not,” Irmo Mayor Hardy King said.

Several efforts to reach Scott Malyerck, spokesman for organizers of the plan, were unsuccessful. He previously said it would take a while to develop the proposal in detail. The proposal’s other main advocates are unknown. The group’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since March.

The proposal would combine part of northern Lexington County with the northwestern corner of Richland County, mirroring the area that is home to Lexington-Richland 5 schools.

It’s an idea that some community leaders say faces long odds.

“This thing didn’t have a prayer,” said Les Tweed, president of the Ballentine-Dutch Fork Civic Association.

Talk of secession from both counties to form a new one with lower taxes and slower development seems a goal of the “far fringe,” King said.

Interest in the idea comes from residents of the rural parts of the area who say they have little in common with more urban neighborhoods.

Informally, the plan is dubbed Birch County after the three main communities in the area — Ballentine, Irmo and Chapin.

Under current guidelines, the fate of the idea will depend on the outcome of a referendum that could occur if a series of legal hurdles for development of a proposal are cleared, and then petitions from enough residents requesting the ballot are gathered.

No one associated with the movement for the new county has touched base about revising guidelines that could hinder its creation, some lawmakers said.

Most residents in the area “care about a lot of other things in front of that,” said state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Ballentine.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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