Rarely do government meetings where so many citizens speak end with a round of applause for elected officials, but that is what happened after Lancaster County Council denied two of three proposed new subdivisions.
At its Nov. 14 meeting, County Council unanimously turned down two possible new subdivisions in the Panhandle, while approving one in the Lancaster area, despite a dissenting vote.
The first property was the largest of the three, and received the most outcries from the audience. The Nisbet property plans called for 1,019 homes on 780 acres off Van Wyck Road.
About a dozen people spoke in opposition, citing everything from traffic concerns to the strain it would place on schools, to the clear-cutting of trees.
The zoning applicant, CLRED III Acquisitions, LLC, wanted the 780 acres rezoned from rural neighborhood district to medium density residential district, which was the first hurdle it needed to clear.
However, people in the Van Wyck area wanted no part of it.
“There is a lack of infrastructure to support the development,” said Jean Doyle of the Van Wyck area, who had a petition against the development with 1,145 signatures.
Both the Lancaster County Planning Commission and the planning staff recommended denying the rezoning.
“They (planning commission and staff) found it inconsistent with the comprehensive plan,” said Rox Burhans, Lancaster County Development Service director.
Mike Scisciani with Landeavor in Charlotte, who would have developed the land, said they were willing to scale back the size of the development.
“We are willing to make adjustments to the plans,” he said.
Scisciani said the developer was willing to drop the development to about 800 homes instead of the original 1,019. He said the neighborhood would bring in $7.6 million in impact fees for the school district.
However, Van Wyck area resident Linda Pelletier said the area wasn’t equipped to handle this type of development off Van Wyck Road, even a scaled-back one.
“Not one aspect of existing infrastructure can handle this development,” she said. “Green space is what draws people to the area. Small towns like Van Wyck are an invaluable draw to the county.”
Van Wyck resident Bob Yoder has a 450-acre farm that has been in his family since the 1800s. Having the area clear-cut of 600 acres of forest would change his farm, as the neighborhood would have been near it.
“Our home backs up to the property,” Yoder said. “If this development is approved, we will lose about 100 acres of property we hunt and fish on.”
He echoed the Pelletier’s concern.
“Van Wyck Road cannot handle another 2,000 cars a day. We don’t have the infrastructure. We don’t have the schools.”
Stuart Graham’s family owns The Ivy Place farm, also near the proposed development. He worried about the family business. He is also a member of Van Wyck Town Council and son of Lancaster County Council member Terry Graham, who recused himself from the meeting during the discussion on the subdivision.
“We are concerned about the higher-density development,” the younger Graham said. “This is not the right location for a subdivision of this type.”
After hearing the concerns of the people, the council voted 6-0 to deny the rezoning of the land.
“I don’t want to put that many homes in that area of the county,” said Councilman Allen Blackmon.
Councilwoman Charlene McGriff said she heard the people and agreed with them and her peers.
“I can’t support anything like this that is going to cause this type of problem,” Councilman Larry Honeycutt said.
After denying the rezoning, council voted 6-0 to deny a development agreement for the land as well.
With the rezoning denial, the developer will have to wait a year to request another rezoning of the land.
Possum Hollow development
The second major subdivision, also in the Indian Land area, received another unanimous denial by council.
This one was nearly 96 acres at the corner of Possum Hollow and Old Bailes roads. It was to be developed by DR Horton for 170 lots. And although the Planning Commission and planning staff approved the plans, council thought differently.
Like the subdivision off Van Wyck Road, the DR Horton one required a rezoning from low density residential to medium density residential.
“Whether it’s a cluster (development) or not, the traffic problem still exists,” Blackmon said.
Councilman Terry Graham pointed out it still adds to the traffic and schools in the Indian Land area.
“The schools can’t handle it,” he said. “The traffic can’t handle it. If you want to slow growth in Indian Land, this is a good opportunity.”
Council members agreed with each other and denied the development rezoning 7-0.
Shiloh Unity Road development
A 398-home subdivision was approved by council, but the vote wasn’t unanimous.
Century Communities Southeast, LLC, of Charlotte plans to build the single-family home development on nearly 170 acres of land off Shiloh Unity Road.
The Planning Commission approved the subdivision in October. The development will have a three-year build-out period.
The developer is also offering a type of impact fee of roughly $1,250 per housing unit, which will be divided between the county school district, solid waste and libraries. The school district will get $500 per unit. The county will get $500 for a solid waste fee and a library fund payment will be created with $250 per unit sold going to it.
“These are voluntary fees the developer is agreeing to,” said John DuBose, Lancaster County attorney.
Terry Graham said the fees should be higher.
“This $500 for schools is totally inadequate,” he said. “We need to reevaluate the $500.”
A traffic study being done for the development has yet to be completed. Graham said he wanted the traffic impact analysis completed before he would vote in favor of the development.
Council voted 5-1 to approve the first of three readings regarding the development. Council Chair Steve Harper recused himself from the vote, citing a conflict with the subject matter.