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Lake Wylie residents hope verifying graves halts development

If an overlay can’t curb a new residential development in Lake Wylie, maybe what’s already in the ground can.

Residents wanting land preserved off S.C. 49 in Lake Wylie say a development off Bonum Road between Baker Lane and Bucleigh Road will encroach on a possible slave or American Indian graveyard. Allison Love of Lake Wylie said a small fenced area with field stones as headstones has been disturbed by land testing for a new subdivision.

“The grave sites in Lake Wylie are being confirmed and will be documented,” Love said.

On Oct. 7, Love and several residents showed York County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Robinson and York County Councilman Bruce Henderson the site. A report is on file with the sheriff’s office, listing land developer Mattamy Homes as a witness to the site disturbance but not as a suspect.

According to the incident report, Robinson found faded and broken markers about 300 feet into a wooded area. Apparent graves were spaced a couple of feet apart, with a sunken grave about 8-feet long visible. The officer also observed “what looked like a path back in the woods through the grave site that was caused by some sort of tractor or bulldozer.” A fence was knocked down, too.

An incident report is needed for an archaeologist to come out and verify the site.

“To my knowledge this area in the woods appeared to be some type of old graveyard,” Robinson wrote in his report.

Matt Burton, whose family has lived nearby for more than 60 years, said his grandparents would warn him not to play in the woods after dark because of the graveyard.

“We thought it was a myth,” he said. “Little did we know there actually was a graveyard here.”

Burton said the developer is being “blatantly disrepectful.”

Burton was on site Thursday showing what he says are broken headstones, moved grave markers and a broken fence that was part of the graveyard.

“We’re not sure who’s buried here,” he said, “but someone’s ancestors are there and we need to be sure they’re given a proper resting place and respect.”

Love made her plea to York County Council at its Oct. 6 meeting. The 85 acres on Baker Lane was purchased in June for $2.6 million by Mattamy Homes. Company attorney Ben Johnson said the plan is for 175 single-family homes. The company only recently learned there could be graves on the property, he told Council.

“We just learned about it within the last 10 days,” he said.

Johnson asked Council not to delay the approval process for the new residential development. Council is through two readings for an overlay amendment that would reduce the density of development allowed near the lake from Buster Boyd Bridge to Three Points, where highways 49, 274 and 557 meet.

“This whole process was initiated more than two months before the Council took up the Lake Wylie overlay changes,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the company submitted a sketch plan in April, and has been pending approval since the June purchase. Johnson said the plan meets all county requirements as written when Mattamy submitted the project.

“This overlay will have no bearing on that,” said Council Chairman Britt Blackwell. “The law says this is in the process, it stays in the process and the new overlay has no bearing on it.”

Love argued the subdivision plans haven’t been approved for a reason, and the county shouldn’t be blamed for delays.

“They’ve had their own delays, because it hasn’t passed,” she said. “What they’ve turned in hasn’t been good enough for York County, and that’s why it’s been sent back to them several times. They can’t get it right.”

Tay Robinson-Locke of Rock Hill said, as an African-American, preserving a slave grave is important.

“To me and my family it would mean a lot, because we don’t have much history still remaining around here,” he said.

Lake Wylie residents continued to push for passing the overlay with overflow crowds having to wait in nearby rooms at the instruction of a fire marshal. Meetings allow up to 15 speakers, each getting two minutes. All 15 speakers at the Oct. 6 meeting spoke in favor of the overlay.

The county planning commission will hear the Lake Wylie zoning overlay amendment at its Oct. 13 meeting in Rock Hill, which is open to the public. Council will hear the third and final reading Oct. 20, which will include a public hearing.

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