A legislative panel has rejected a bid by the small Sumter County community of Rembert to become South Carolina’s newest town.
The Joint Committee on Municipal Incorporation last week voted unanimously against an incorporation petition by the small community, worrying the proposal’s 90 residents would be too small and the future town unlikely to properly provide essential services. Rembert is roughly 15 miles northwest of Sumter.
“They’re great folks and you’re sympathetic for what they’re seeking to do. But at the end of the day, they were going to be a town in name only,” Committee Vice Chair Greg Hembree, R-Horry, told South Carolina Radio Network. “They weren’t adding any new municipal services.”
Hembree said Rembert’s plan relied almost entirely on Sumter County or other governmental agencies to offer law enforcement, fire and utilities. At 93 residents living in roughly a third of a square-mile, the town would just barely meet the state’s population density requirements to incorporate.
Trent Kernodle, a Charleston attorney who is representing Rembert’s organizers, said the issue for them is more local control. “As just another member of the county, they have some services supplied. And that’s good,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But the chief thing that they want control over is zoning and planning. And without being a town, you’re sort of in a no-person’s land where you’re at the subject of everyone else in the county.”
South Carolina state law requires a lengthy approval process for towns to incorporate. Organizers must submit paperwork with the SC Secretary of State’s Office demonstrating how the new town would provide services to its residents, how it would raise the revenue to pay for those services, how many residents it expects to have and the signatures of at least 15 percent of residents who would live inside the town’s proposed borders, among other requirements. The Joint Committee then considers the petitions and recommends the Secretary of State’s Office either certify or reject the petition.
If certified, residents inside the town’s proposed borders must approve the incorporation in a referendum.
Hembree said it was a difficult decision, but that the committee was concerned Rembert is unsustainable as a town government. “We have to step away from the emotional element and objectively look at the facts,” he said. “Can we say they’d have a good chance of success? We just couldn’t get there. It just felt like they would be struggling. Probably for a really, really long time.”
The committee had to adjourn its Thursday meeting before it was able to consider a separate proposal by the potential Lancaster County town of Van Wyck. Van Wyck is in the state’s northern “panhandle” corner outside Rock Hill and the Charlotte suburbs. Residents there are hoping to stay ahead of Charlotte’s growing sprawl, particularly amid efforts by those suburbs to form another new town called Indian Land.