York County Council members voted to rezone the Regent Park golf course for housing, not because they liked it, but because they like the alternative less.
“This is a true damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Councilman Michael Johnson, who represents the Fort Mill area.
At its Feb. 1 meeting the York County Council held a public hearing on the rezoning and passed the first of three required readings for the almost 27-acre site off of Regent Parkway. Meritage Homes of Scottsdale, Ariz., wants to put 67 homes there. Council members said they don’t want more residences there, but current zoning allows for higher density than the current plan.
“Saying ‘no’ to this doesn’t make the problem better,” Johnson said.
Nearby parcels will be developed into townhomes and apartments. The Meritage property could be, too. Johnson said there’s “nothing the county can do” when property already is zoned for a use, in which case the county “can’t stop it from being developed in a certain way.”
“The land is currently zoned BD-III. The golf course is going to sell. The driving range is gone. The land where the clubhouse (is), is gone. Those are going to be developed,” Johnson said.
Johnson began meeting with Regent Park residents last fall. He said he would vote “no” on the current rezoning if he believed it would stop the golf course from being developed. But denying this request and having the developer come back with more townhomes – up to 100 – would be “a lot worse than what you’re facing,” he said.
“I’m not happy about any of it, but it is going to happen,” Johnson said. “They have the right.”
Councilman Bruce Henderson, who faces similar growth issues in Lake Wylie, voted against the rezoning.
“Somewhere we have to draw a line in the sand,” he said. “Somewhere we have to start saying no. Because we’re overrunning our infrastructure. We’re overrunning the schools, overrunning people.”
Other council members took Johnson’s approach.
“We can say ‘no’ to this, and they can build (townhomes) as it is,” said Councilman Chad Williams. “We cannot say ‘no’ to that.”
Councilman Robert Winkler pointed to a project in Lake Wylie, were a golf driving range was developed into high density apartments. That possibility outweighed concerns he has that the 67 homes will be on smaller lots than neighboring homes.
“What concerns me even more is them being able to come in and put something like what went on the driving range off (S.C.) 274 in Lake Wylie,” Winkler said. “That would do much more harm.”
Council members agreed this dilemma isn’t specific to this one site. Most of the golf course had the same zoning prior to recent redevelopments.
“What is coming, it will hurt District 1,” Johnson said. “It will hurt Regent Park. It will hurt Fort Mill schools. It will hurt Fort Mill. And short of a moratorium coming out of this council, townhomes are coming next right here.”
Several residents spoke against the Meritage project at Monday’s meeting. Phil Cloninger, who moved to Fort Mill 30 years ago, sees it adding to an area already impacted by apartments and Carolina Orchards nearby.
“I would just ask the Council to consider seriously limiting development in that area until we can get (S.C.) 21 widened,” he said.
John Brown, a 10-year resident, argued the proposed density is too high compared to neighborhoods beside it.
“You can look at the proposed development. The lots are smaller than the lots on the adjoining properties, ” he said.
Kris Clemente said the proposed entrance is too close to a high traffic area, with curves and speed likely to create problems.
“It’s probably going to cause some accidents,” he said. “And these aren’t run into the back of your car accidents. These are T-bone accidents.”
Clemente took issue with a report saying traffic typically is reduced with the residential zoning, compared to the current one.
“We’re talking about a golf course here,” he said. “You’re not talking about cars turning onto a golf course. There are no cars coming out of this area right now.”
Resident Richard Manell said property values are a concern, too.
“If we’re not on a golf course, it’s going to take a huge dip,” he said.
Tom Kutz with Meritage Homes said the company has several York County projects in its portfolio, including Riverchase, Palm Tree Cove, Handsmill and Lake Ridge. The property will have a 25-foot buffer along a nearby commercial boundary, and 50- and 100-foot buffers along residential boundaries. Golf cart paths will remain.
“Our plans are to maintain the existing trails as much as possible,” Kutz said.
A man-made pond used for golf course irrigation will be removed. Kutz said his company is working with the homeowners association about membership and contributions. He expects the project to fit in with the feel of Regent Park.
“Our proposed development plans would have us starting sales somewhere in the summer of 2017,” he said. “If we were to sell houses today, our average closing price would be in the low $300,000s.”