Aiken County residents in legal battle with megafarm they say is destroying community

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AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – Hundreds of Aiken County residents are in a legal battle with a megafarm.

“Save Windsor South Carolina” was started by locals in an effort to stop the agricultural industry that they say is destroying their community.

President and Treasurer of “Save Windsor South Carolina” Carolyn Barrett says it wasn’t until after the Aiken County Council approved the farms request, to close 2 vital roads, that she found out about it. She says those roads aren’t just used by people who live there, it’s also how emergency services reaches citizens in need.

Carolyn Barrett has lived on Old Bell Road, in Aiken County, for many years. Barrett says in February of 2015 without any notice BC Farms, Inc. bought up 2,200 acres of land, right down from her property. Since then its been one problem after another.

“Property values have gone down. We’ve already had one resident, on Old Bell Road, that their water well went dry,” Barrett told WJBF NewsChannel 6. “They started harvesting the corn, over here, this week. So we have semi-trucks up and down this road.”

Barrett says the megafarm is part of a 4-farm corporation. Now that’s its expanding it needs more land to harvest more crops. That’s when the company filed paperwork to close a portion of Old Bell Road and Oak Ridge Club Road. A request that was approved by the Aiken County Council.

However, it’s a decision that isn’t sitting well with people who live there.

“Right now if I called 9-1-1 they would dispatch a rescue squad from Windsor,” Barrett said. “If that road is closed, they have to drive about 2.5 miles further to get to me. Meanwhile I may be dead.”

That extra response is also a reason the Montmorenci Volunteer Fire Department is opposing the county’s decision, as written in a letter signed by the Assistant Chief Robert Verbockel.

Still, Barrett says it’s also in the farms best interest not to close the roads.

“The farm had a worker hurt, called 9-1-1. They sent 4 emergency rescue vehicles from the Windsor Fire Station and they had 2 choices. They could come the dirt road and get to that person fast or they could go Highway 78 and the Hatchway Bridge and back to Old Bell, and it would take a lot further. Guess how they came? The dirt road.” Barrett told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

“Save Windsor South Carolina” did file a lawsuit and the court ruled in favor of BC Farms, Inc.

However, the organization has filed a motion and now the judge has 30 days to decide if he will reopen the case.

Barrett says if the judge stick with his original ruling, “Save Windsor South Carolina” will file a new law suit.

WJBF NewsChannel 6 reached out to Aiken County District 1 Councilwoman, Kathy Rawls for comment. She declined.Full Letter from Montmorenci Volunteer Fire Department:

To Whom It May Concern,

In the interest of public safety The Montmorenci Volunteer Fire Department does not agree with the closure of portions of Oak Ridge Club Rd or Old Bell Rd.

The closure of the roads mentioned above would drastically increase response to residents along Old Bell Rd within our district as well as those living in the eastern portion of Windsor.

With the changes in building construction and the prolific use of synthetic materials in furnishings it is ever more critical to ensure an unimpeded path to reduce response times. Reducing response times prevents loss of live as well as reduces property loss.

Additionally, there would be increased response time the industrial facility being constructed on the farms in the area. Mainly the bin storage and 30,000 gallon propane tank. It is felt that delays in responding to these facilities could result in loss of life as well as property.

Thank you

Robert Verbockel

Assistant Chief

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 

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