A zoning issue that threatened spending on future improvements at the Liberty Steel mill in Georgetown has been resolved, and company officials say they hope to announce "positive news" about the plant in the coming week.
Liberty had asked the city to rezone about 55 acres of its property from a redevelopment district to heavy industrial use. The current zoning calls for the mill to be shut down permanently if it is idled for more than 365 consecutive days. Liberty officials have said that makes it difficult to justify investments in the plant.
The city's planning commission previously recommended denial of the rezoning request.
On Friday, Liberty said it met with Georgetown officials and agreed to an amendment to the current land use that won't require a rezoning.
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"We had a very positive meeting with the mayor and city officials (Thursday)," said Liberty spokesman Eoghan Mortell. "As a result we are withdrawing the petition to rezone because we've worked out an alternative solution" and a special City Council meeting scheduled for Oct. 10 will be canceled.
Mortell said the amendment "gives us the flexibility and certainty we need to achieve our business goals and preserve our long-term investment as a steel producer, while also demonstrating commitment to the long-term economic interests of the Georgetown community."
Production at the mill along Front Street has slowed, both over the rezoning issue and so Liberty can align operations there with other recent U.S. acquisitions.
"Liberty Steel is operating on a reduced schedule," said James Sanderson, president of United Steelworkers No. 7898, which represents workers at the Georgetown mill. Sanderson did not say how much steel the mill is producing but said no workers have been laid off because of the slowdown.
Sandra Yudice, the city's administrator, said Liberty officials discussed their production plans and potential improvements during this week's meeting, but referred questions about those plans to the company.
The Georgetown site, which had been shuttered for nearly three years under previous owner ArcelorMittal, restarted in June 2018 under the Liberty Steel division of British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s privately held GFG Alliance.
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Liberty acquired the Georgetown property in a stock purchase with Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal. The restart put about 125 people back to work, with long-range plans to hire 320 people.
Liberty also owns Summerville-based Strand-Tech Manufacturing, which makes high-carbon cable wire.