What we think: Simpsonville now should answer

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We encourage the Simpsonville City Commission to answer the public's questions.

Now that Horizon Group Properties has received approval from the Triple S Planning Commission on its request to rezone several acres of Simpsonville to be appropriate as a site for its planned outlet mall, this question now comes down to the final affirmation or rejection by the Simpsonville City Commission.

When some neighbors of the proposed site addressed the city commission in July, they received no comment because, as William Brammell,one of the city’s attorneys told them, it would be inappropriate for city officials to comment as this process moves forward for review.

That review by Triple S was complete last week, and we suggest that now is the time for the elected officials of Simpsonville to answer any questions about this proposed outlet mall –  another being developed by Trio Property Management remains to receive its OK from Triple S – and put on record their views of these plans.

The city commission has no legal obligation to take up the approval of the mall. It in fact could allow the recommendation from Triple S sit without action for 90 days and become the final decision, sort of a “pocket approval” of the process. And because this is an election year – and there will be a contested race for the four seats on the commission – that could be a temptation.

But we consider the right thing to do – and our position is the same as it was when Shelby County Fiscal Court was faced with a controversial zoning decision on a request from Midwest Metals – is this: Let the people talk and answer their questions. They are your bosses, and you owe them that.

The contradictory situation when it comes to the outlet mall plans and the city of Simpsonville is that virtually everyone who has spoken with concern or in opposition to these projects resides outside the city’s limits.

Property owners in Majestic Oaks and Hunters Pointe, to name two developments, and others can see the city’s incorporated parcels just up the road from their homes, but they have no real voice in what goes on there. District 2 Magistrate Michael Riggs is among those residents, and he has said he could do nothing to help those he represents.

No, there is no real obligation here by the city to hear what these people think – and the commission should be commended for opening their ears earlier – but commissioners allow these neighbors to ask and to hear answers to their questions, to respond to their concerns.

Commissioners in the process also may open the throats of city residents who may have similar opinions or questions, and in so doing they will be honoring the foundation of democracy and the oath to serve that they were administered following election.

Yes, this process could be time-consuming and painful and likely would accomplish little in assuaging the concerns of those who paid well for residences in what they thought would be a quiet but handy corner of the county. But it should happen nonetheless.

Barring an economic collapse, it is now virtually certain that one of these malls will be built and better than even money that two of them could be developed. In two years the southern suburb of Simpsonville could have nearly a million square feet of new retail space and two large magnets for development of more than a dozen zone-approved perimeter parcels. There could be hundreds, perhaps thousands of new jobs.

Those would mean significant change for a small but fast-growing city and for not only those who live within its limits but also those who surround it.

We don’t know how this process will continue to evolve, but we are certain of one thing: The right step is to let the public speak and discuss those issues on the record. That clears up any future question that no one would listen.