Fort Mill plans for growth meet little opposition

FORT MILL -- Town officials and development representatives outnumbered concerned community members at a Tuesday presentation on proposed annexations that would double the size of Fort Mill.

"People know the reputation and history of all this, so they know what's going on," said Robert "Bo" Palmer, a lifelong Fort Mill resident who lives in an island of property surrounded by the Anne Springs Close Greenway. "The question is, what's going to happen to other properties in Fort Mill."

Clear Springs Development and Leroy Springs & Co. unveiled their plans in June to annex about 5,000 acres into the town of Fort Mill.

Clear Springs seeks to bring 2,800 acres of mixed-use commercial, high-end commercial and residential into the town. Leroy Springs wants to annex about 2,200 recreational acres into Fort Mill. About 2,000 of that is the Anne Springs Close Greenway. The property proposed for annexation does not include the Baxter Village development.

Tom Adams, who ran for mayor four years ago and is seeking the District 4 seat on the Town Council, echoed Palmer in lauding planned growth and also expressed concern about properties that are not being annexed.

"I'm not against growth," Adams said after the presentation. "It's a change in the nature of the area, but at this point it's inevitable. ... It requires a high degree of cooperation between the town and the county."

Other residents who attended also expressed more concern about properties not owned by the Close family that lie between properties that are.

Don Killoren, Clear Springs chairman and CEO, called the annexation proposal "a legacy development."

"With the economic boom that has occurred in recent years, it would have been easy to push residential development," Killoren told those present. "We wanted to provide employment and increase the vibrancy of the town. Leveraging the heritage of the town and not allowing it to become a bedroom community was real important to the Close family."

The two companies, both held by the Close family's Springs Co., are negotiating development agreements with town officials. Local officials support the plan, in general, because the commercial and industrial sites would provide a strong tax base for public services they and the residential sites would require. They also cite what they says is the Close family's history of responsible development.

Development would begin with commercial property in the Kingsley and Springfield communities, a Clear Springs spokesman has said.

Kingsley comprises 626 primarily commercial acres with about 1,000 residential units at the northwest intersection of S.C. 160 and U.S. 21 Bypass around a proposed hospital site. Kingsley Site 2 is 55 commercial acres at the northeast corner of the same intersection. It includes an additional 113 acres of commercial development with about 400 residential units, possibly for seniors, at the southeast corner of the intersection and a little further south on the southwest side of U.S. 21 Bypass.

Springfield is 347 primarily residential acres.

The acreage also includes: 30 single-family and multifamily acres at Merritt; 345 residential acres at Avery; 845 commercial and industrial acres at McAlhaney along the Catawba River; and 452 acres of commercial and industrial at Bradley Park, also along the Catawba River.

"It's structured, planned growth," Palmer said after viewing the plan for the first time. "It's excellent use of the land. I've been here 62 years, and I don't plan to move."