Plan for more homes stokes fears of more traffic on Celanese Road

The construction of 150 homes near Celanese Road is raising some concerns about more traffic along one of the area’s busiest roadways.

The Rock Hill City Council is scheduled to give final approval Monday to the annexation of land for a proposed subdivision at Twin Lakes Road and Homestead Road. That approval would pave the way for developers to complete a new neighborhood, Lakewood Forest, on about 100 acres.

In February, council members denied plans for a larger development that would have created a 275-acre community on the site, citing concerns about traffic congestion on the nearby highway. That led developer Kent Olson to go back to the council with a simpler request to have the area rezoned for a single-family development.

“This is similar to the (previous) Lakewood Forest plan, except the lots would be larger,” city planner Eric Hawkins told council members when the revised plan came up for a vote April 27.

The previous proposal included plans for 55-foot-wide lots, but the zoning regulations planned for that lot “require a minimum of 60 feet.”

Olson, the owner of Development Solutions Group of Charlotte, said the development would be a “low density” neighborhood aimed at an “active adult” population over the age of 55, which he says will meet the demand for new housing options in the Rock Hill area.

Under the new proposal, “houses will be more expensive, because you’ll lose density,” Olson said. “That just forces the prices up.”

He notes that even the initial 200-plus unit development rejected by City Council was less dense than what could have been built there under the county’s zoning regulations. A developer could have built multi-family apartment buildings on the site under the county’s zoning, but Lakewood Forest had to request annexation into the city to access Rock Hill’s utility services.

Still, members of the Rock Hill City Council expressed concern about the long-term impact of Lakewood Forest – and other potential housing developments in the area – on traffic flow on Celanese Road, the main thoroughfare to Interstate 77 from a “travel shed” that includes much of the western side of York County.

A study commissioned by the developer projects a minimal impact on traffic from Lakewood Forest, but council members still split 5-2 on whether to approve the plan, with Kathy Pender and Kevin Sutton voting against. Several members said the strain on Celanese must be taken into account when approving future developments, but Sutton, who argued for imposing even stricter density limits on Lakewood Forest, is skeptical that standard will be enforced.

“I’m shocked they approved this one,” Sutton said.

Sutton remembers serving on the regional transportation committee when the decision was made to expand much of Celanese Road from two lanes to three.

“My job as a council member is to make sure the city grows in a responsible manner,” he said. “I don’t know what more in profit he can get from a higher density, but I do know how many millions it will take to widen the road.”

Besides the neighborhood’s proximity to Celanese, concerns also came up about the property’s location near the Rock Hill/York County Airport. The airport commission sent a letter to the city saying pilots regularly conduct flight training over the area. City Council members asked Olson to convey that information to any new homebuyers in Lakewood Forest.

The city must still approve the final site plan for the development. Olson intends to submit an updated plan within 90 days. Construction should begin early in 2016, and homes will go on the market by the end of next year.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062