800-plus homes planned at former Van Wyck camp

More than 800 homes could be coming to the site of a former camp for disadvantaged children between Van Wyck and Indian Land in the fast-growing panhandle region of Lancaster County.

“It’s obviously going to change the area some,” Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes said, “because it’s a large influx of homes.”

Preserve at Tree Tops – Tree Tops was the name of the old camp – is zoned for up to 850 homes on 612 acres at 9070 Van Wyck Road. The Lancaster County Council approved a development agreement for 835 homes in December. The project still has to be submitted for county planning department review.

The property is between the unincorporated communities of Indian Land and Van Wyck, in the Van Wyck Fire District.

“The next step is preliminary plan approval,” county planner Alex Moore said. “That only goes to the planning commission. It doesn’t go to County Council.”

That approval could come by early spring.

Lennar Homes is developing the property. The agreement with Lancaster County includes payments of $835,000 to the county for public safety and $417,500 for the Lancaster County School District by the end of the year.

It also includes up to $350,000 for improvements on Van Wyck Road, more than two acres donated for a medical, fire or law enforcement facility, a tax district to help offset costs for fire service and up to $5,000 each for the county’s putting the development agreement together and creating the tax district.

Half or more of the homes in Preserve at Tree Tops will be age-restricted. Among those, at least one resident must be 55 or older, and no permanent resident is allowed under age 19.

The property includes about 60 percent open space. County records show it belongs to Thompson Child & Family Focus, which is based in Charlotte. Moore said it used to be a camp for disadvantaged children.

Per the development agreement, 75 homes will be built in the first year, then 100 each subsequent year until the final 60 units are built in the ninth year. Carnes said Lennar has been “a good developer to work with” on other projects in Lancaster County. The company’s work includes The Retreat at Rayfield and Carolina Reserve in Indian Land.

Former County Councilman Bryan Vaughn, a 15-year resident of Indian Land, is the safety and transportation director for Lancaster County schools. The district is aware of residential activity in the area and planning for it, he said.

“Right now, our biggest need is at the middle school level,” he said. “That’s where we’re really feeling the growth pains.”

About 3,200 students attend two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in Indian Land. The second elementary school opened just last year. The high school is built for up to 1,200 students and has about 875 now. The middle school has about 800.

“We believe we can add on 400 seats to (each school) without going to an additional site,” Vaughn said.

More detailed recommendations will come to the school board in the next several weeks, he said, but the feeling is expansion of current schools would precede any new school construction. Continued residential growth in the panhandle could involve both.

Planners say interest in the panhandle area is high. The county planning commission heard three more requests for new neighborhoods at a Tuesday meeting.

A map of commercial developments in the panhandle lists 91 existing or planned businesses. A similar map lists 43 residential developments.

The proximity to Charlotte is a major reason Indian Land is so popular, Carnes said, particularly for residential construction.

“It’s close to Charlotte, and on our end of town Mecklenburg County is running out of good, developable land,” he said. “Number two is the property tax difference.”