Fate of planned subdivision rests in York's decision on annexation

YORK -- A developer wants to build a 212-home subdivision along S.C. 5 near Ernest Road, but he needs York's help to do it.

Rolin Choate, owner of Queens Park Inc. Development, knows York's the next hot spot for growth.

"Growth is coming to York County like a freight train, and York's the next stop," Choate said.

Choate has been planning to build Queens Park subdivision on a 131-acre tract of land just outside city limits. But his plans changed when the York County Council shot down his original plan to build a 400-plus home community. He cut the proposal in half, but it was still rejected.

He turned to the city of York for answers, but instead, Choate ran into more delays.

The city has postponed annexing the property, which is needed before he starts the project, until after Choate's company completes a series of tasks ranging from notifying neighbors to securing a link between Queens Park and the city limits.

"We are going to annex, and we're going to grow, but we're going to be wise about it, and we're going to be careful," York Mayor Eddie Lee said. "This has just been a slow process for Mr. Choate, but I think it will eventually be annexed once he fulfills the city's requirements."

Lee said it will be August at the earliest before the council considers annexing the land.

Opposition to subdivision

Many, however, are opposed to the project, citing a number of issues ranging from strain on an overcrowded school to concerns over the road's already-poor condition.

York schools Superintendent Russell Booker said the project falls into Hunter Street Elementary's attendance zone and could bring an increased burden to a school that's reaching its maximum capacity.

"We very much support growth, but as it relates to Hunter Street Elementary, we can't endorse a subdivision of this magnitude at this point," Booker said, adding he hopes the council will hold off on approving the large-scale subdivision until programs are established to relieve congestion in the school.

Also, about 40 neighbors have signed a petition against the development and potential annexation.

Some are worried the development will create a shortcut between Shiloh Road and the S.C. 5 Bypass, bringing additional traffic not associated with the development. Others say Ernest Road is already in bad shape and the development would make it worse.

Many just don't want change.

"If we wanted to be in the city, we would move to the city," said Ernest Road resident Linda Cameron. "We don't want city taxes."

Cameron and her husband, Donald, say they prefer the quiet neighborhood as it is.

"We're kind of secluded down here," she said.

But Choate argues that won't be the case forever.

"These people are against development, period," Choate said. "But it's not going to be farmland forever. I want to build a nice subdivision this community will be proud of."

Choate's vision is similar to Sutton Place in Fort Mill, a 197-lot subdivision with upscale homes. He sold his first lot in Sutton Place in 2001, when homes were in the $180,000-price range. Now homes are going for $400,000 and higher.

Choate said that Queens Park, like Sutton Place, won't be an overnight development. He expects to average 28 sold lots a year, bringing growth in at a gradual pace.

Choate doesn't want to develop the land under the current zoning by the county that allows for only 65 lots.

"I can't make the numbers work with 65 lots," he said. "That's why I'm looking to get into the city -- to get the higher density."

He said it's also more attractive for homeowners to live within York's city limits because they'll have access to city services and infrastructure.

Choate is working with national builders including Ryan Homes, but they won't make any commitments until the project is annexed. He expects homes to start out in the low $200,000s. Under the city zoning, lots will be a minimum of 15,000 square foot and 80 feet wide.

"Until I'm annexed and know what size lots I have, I don't have anything to sell," Choate said.