on February 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Mayor takes planners through Westminster

WESTMINSTER — Tipton Pitts knew of Westminster, but he didn’t know about Westminster.

The landscape architect from Spartanburg always drove by signs for the city on state route 11, but never veered off the road to visit. On Thursday he joined other professional planners in looking through the city as part of the South Carolina Mayors’ Institute.

“It’s got a great small town environment that needs to be protected,” he said.

Pitts helps secure grants for projects in municipalities like Williamston, Iva and Honea Path. He spent the afternoon speaking with Westminster City Administrator David Smith in one of three groups convening at Blue Ridge Electric to see where the city’s future lies.

Mayor Derek Hodgin is one of five South Carolina mayors to win a spot in the Mayors’ Institute, which brings community designers to communities that need infrastructure improvements but don’t have immediate resources to obtain solutions.

“You’re getting interested people formulating an idea that’s going in a general direction,” Smith said. “They’re offering the time. They’re dedicated.”

Professionals in education, landscape design and historic revitalization met with local representatives at the bed and breakfast business Magnolia Manor to brainstorm and discuss design issues. In a presentation Hodgin gave in Charleston, he had outlined problems like lack of downtown parking, lack of connectivity between area public buildings and a lack of guidelines to protect historic buildings. Beautification and depot development are also key issues, he said.

Soon after the afternoon discussion, the team broke into three committees dealing with regional connection and gateways, downtown development and historic preservation.

Pitts, Smith and other planners marked community locations like West-Oak Middle School, the library and downtown on an aerial map. Pitts said having walking and bike paths between these spots could improve community relations and allow for healthier lifestyles.

“There’s such good raw material here,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of getting it to work.”

The planners, along with select Clemson University students assigned to study Westminster, will consider information and insight from the site visit and advise the city on grant opportunities and development strategies.

Hodgin, along with mayors from Liberty, Allendale, Olanta, and Little Mountain, will graduate from the institute this year after collaborating further with planners.