York County officials on Monday unveiled a plan to remodel the Interstate 77 interchange at Carowinds that will require millions of dollars and cooperation between public and private interests.
The plan calls for lessening traffic congestion, reducing visual clutter, spurring economic development and, most importantly, creating a gateway into York County and South Carolina.
"I have people who come into my restaurant and ask, 'Are we in North Carolina or South Carolina?'" said Steve Perterson, general manager of the Wendy's on Carowinds Boulevard. "I'm looking forward to this."
Peterson was one of many stakeholders interviewed by York County planning officials in developing the plan. Buy-in and participation from Fort Mill Township property owners is essential for the plan's success, according to the study.
The study looked at 1,870 acres straddling the interstate and identified five key factors: aesthetics, ranging from dilapidated buildings to confusing signs; crowded roadways handling in excess of 65,000 vehicles daily; regulatory challenges; a lack of business diversity; and stakeholder involvement.
Key recommendations included more enforcement of the property codes, common signage, changing the comprehensive plan and zoning to encourage more mixed-use and multifamily development and landscaping.
Some of the physical improvements are already on the state's road budget. Changes totaling $2.25 million to Springhill Farm Road and its intersections with Stateview Boulevard and Flint Hill Road, as well as more turn lanes on S.C. 51, are already funded. Upgrading S.C. 51 and Springhill Farm Road each to five lanes is projected to cost $22.3 million, which is unfunded.
No cost estimate was provided to expand the I-77 southbound on-ramp to eliminate backups from Carowinds Boulevard.
To gain more business diversity, the plan noted some people wanted major retail development at the intersection. The plan said that would be difficult given the intersection's proximity to major shopping centers just across the border in North Carolina.
The plan also calls for a prominent gateway feature to let people know they have arrived in South Carolina. York County Council members said that feature should let people know they have arrived in the county, too.
The council took no action on the plan which still has to go to the Planning Commission and have a public hearing.
After the presentation, Phil Murdock of Rock Hill presented a possible development scenario for 28 acres on the southwest side of the I- 77 interchange. His proposal is designed to address the need for more flexible-use space as an economic development incentive.
His proposal included public investment, which several council members said was unlikely. Murdock collapsed during the discussion.
He was helped from the room and an ambulance was called. Murdock said he was OK before being treated.