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Building Our City | Green Diamond one step closer

More than 100 people crammed into Cayce City Hall for a rezoning meeting Monday that set the stage for Cayce’s vote on annexation of floodprone land in neighboring Richland County. .

Many wore stickers reading, “Don’t annex Green Diamond! Keep Cayce out of the levee business.”

In the end, the Cayce Planning Commission gave unanimous approval to recommend the rezoning of 3,113 acres of Richland County land commonly called Green Diamond — property that has been part of the civic debate for the past seven years as its owners attempt to develop land behind farm levees along the Congaree River.

Deas Manning of Columbia, a property owner and part of the development team, said the group will be back with a development plan later.

The zoning designation that was recommended Monday is considered a holding pattern for the land and mirrors the zoning applied to the property by Richland County, said Ken Knudsen, Cayce’s planning director.

Even before the hour-long meeting ended, residents opposed to the development were gearing up for Thursday’s meeting of City Council.

The vote Thursday will be on annexation.

“You’ve got to come back on the 20th. Everybody,” Mike Pazery called to the crowd as they gathered jackets and purses to leave.

The five-member council has agreed to an accelerated schedule of special meetings to consider the annexation by year’s end.

Two council members, Ken Jumper and Skip Jenkins, were part of Monday’s crowd.

Chris Kueny is a Cayce resident who has been fighting the development for years, saying it would increase the potential of flooding in his Riverland Park neighborhood.

Monday, Kueny said he has talked to people who oppose the annexation because it will divide Cayce’s residents into the “old Cayce” and the new development, with its own set of priorities.

“The annexation is going to change Cayce forever, and open us up to dueling interest blocs,” Kueny said.

Planning commissioner Daytona Jarman repeatedly told the crowd the group was doing what was required of them by law.

And chairman Gary Prince warned he would not accept comments about anything but land-use zoning of the land. “It’s not about annexation, I’m going to tell you that right now,” he said at the outset.

The crowd applauded the only one of 14 speakers who managed to get in comments about the city’s legal liability should the levees fail. Prince threatened to have a later speaker thrown out of the meeting if he didn’t limit his comments to the zoning issue.

Angela Howle said she hoped the city would move slowly and listen to the concerns of citizens.

“There is a lot of information that stills needs to be gathered in terms of this property being developed,” she said.

Developer Bob Hughes of Greenville underscored the point, saying it was “too early” to discuss uses for the property.

Deborah Ogilbie of Cayce said she made up her mind during the meeting that she supports the annexation because that’s the only way she can have a voice in the property’s development.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.