Proposed annexation could double Fort Lawn's size

FORT LAWN -- A proposed development near Fort Lawn could more than double the population of the small Chester County town if local leaders decide to annex the site.

Officials say an agreement is being negotiated to join the town with "Courtney on the Catawba," a potential development that could eventually include more than 700 homes. The town has about 850 residents.

The idea of developing the 382-acre site isn't new. In 2000, "Courtney on the Catawba," was touted as the biggest residential project to come the county's way in years.

Officials from the initial developer, Squires Enterprises, hoped houses would be up by Christmas of that year, but the project never materialized.

The property eventually changed hands, and now a Union County, N.C., developer has proposed a project with the same name on the land, said Fort Lawn Police Chief Richard Smith, who has been talking to the latest developer, R.D. Harrell.

"There's a lot of interest in Fort Lawn right now," Smith said. "We're in a good spot. We're 45 minutes from Charlotte. We're 45 minutes from Columbia. We're 20 minutes from Rock Hill. We're five minutes from Lancaster, and we've got water (front property)."

Leaders agreed at the last council meeting to let the town's attorney begin discussing a development agreement for the project, Smith said.

"It's not going to be like flipping a light switch on," he said of the project. "It's going to take probably 10 years to build it."

Sewer lines could be extended

Town leaders hope one benefit from annexing the property will be money coming in from new residents to pay for extending sewer lines.

In January, Springs Global sent a letter to the town saying the company would stop treating the town's sewage by 2010 but couldn't guarantee it would provide the service that long.

One study found connecting Fort Lawn to the Chester Metropolitan Water District -- about 9 miles away -- was the most reasonable sewer option, costing about $3 million.

But the proposed development would help alleviate the town's sewer woes, Fort Lawn Mayor Charles "Clif" Ferguson said.

County economic development director Karlisa Parker also said the development will help the town.

"It will assist the town of Fort Lawn in ringing the bell even louder about their sewer needs," she said.

Part of what makes the Fort Lawn area attractive is that it offers a pleasant rural landscape and waterfront property, Parker said.

"I'm thrilled for the town of Fort Lawn," she said, referring to the proposed development. "It can really turn things around there."

"Courtney on the Catawba" is one of several development projects that have the potential to drastically change the landscape of the county in coming years.

Montrose Plantation, a 6,000-acre commercial, recreational and residential community with up to 8,000 homes and two professional golf courses, is a highly anticipated project.

So is the Lando project that Rock Hill developer Joe Lanford is working on. Lando was once home to Manetta Mills, the bustling hub of the tiny area in northeastern Chester County. Preliminary plans call for 1,000 to 1,200 homes nestled amid a bucolic landscape at the former textile site.

"There's a lot of good things going in Chester County," Smith said. "Fort Lawn, we're glad to be a part of it."