York: Builder should help pay for substation

YORK -- A large residential development is moving forward off Ernest Road, but city leaders want the developer to do more before they give the project final approval.

The York City Council recently gave initial approval to annex Queens Park, a 131-acre property on the eastern side of York. But the council wants Rolin Choate, who plans to build more than 200 homes on the property, to provide the money to buy land for a fire substation that could serve the subdivision. City leaders also want him to address residents' complaints by fixing up Ernest Road.

"Where he's wanting to build his development is really stretching us out to the exterior limits of our fire protection district," York Fire Chief Domenic Manera said. "At some point in time, there's going to be a need for a substation to be able to maintain the response times that we try to maintain within the city limits."

The substation would be built somewhere between the existing fire station and Queens Park Property and would be run by the York Fire Department, Manera said.

Ideally, firefighters like to have homes within 2 miles of a fire station, Manera said. It's about 5 1/2 miles between the fire station and the entrance to Queens Park, he said.

Additionally, residents near the proposed development have said Ernest Road is in bad shape and can't handle more traffic.

"Several of them have called and said that if this is the way it's going to be annexed, then they wanted Mr. Choate to fix that road," Mayor Eddie Lee said.

Because Ernest Road is not owned by the city, Choate will have to work with state or county officials to do repairs, said David Breakfield, York's planning director.

Still, some residents are opposed to the development.

"People are wanting to put big subdivisions like that from one end of the county to the other, and it's just not feasible," said Linda Cameron, an Ernest Road resident. "Somebody somewhere is going to have to stop some of this growth."

Choate's proposal for annexation also received opposition this summer when it was first presented to the city, with about 40 residents signing a petition against it. The council rejected the initial request until Choate's company could talk with neighbors and secure a link between Queens Park and city limits.

The linking properties, which also received initial approval, are 2.48 acres owned by Eugene and Brenda Faye Rollins and 137.2 acres owned by Thomasson Investments.

The York school district also opposed annexation, saying it would put an unnecessary strain on already crowded schools.

"My only concern is that if it's going to be approved that we'll have a reasonable phase-in," said Russell Booker, schools superintendent.

Choate, who also developed Sutton Place in Fort Mill, declined to comment.

He told the Enquirer-Herald in July that growth will be gradual with about 28 homes added each year.

Choate also said at that time he wants the property annexed so it can be rezoned. Under the county's current zoning, he could only develop about 65 lots.

He expects homes will start in the low $200,000s.

A public hearing and second vote on the proposed annexation will be held at the Dec. 4 council meeting.