‘Shot in the arm’ possible as Lennar Homes plans 2,000 homes near Lancaster

For years now Lancaster County growth, particularly residential growth, has been dominated by Indian Land. Now it’s heading, if ever so slightly, down the highway.

“We do have big things coming,” said Lancaster County Councilman Larry Honeycutt. “We are going to get a new development that will add about 2,000 houses.”

That many homes would be noticeable anywhere. But it’s the location that makes a difference.

“That is going to be a shot in the arm, we believe, for downtown Lancaster,” Honeycutt said. “We do need a shot in the arm for our city. These things hopefully will revitalize that whole community.”

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It isn’t a done deal yet, but it’s getting there.

Council passed the first vote of three needed to make it happen, on Oct. 22. Second votes are planned for Nov. 12. If that passes, a third and final vote would be Nov. 26.

The biggest piece of the puzzle is a more than 1,300-acre tract on the west side of U.S. 521, between intersections at West North Corner and Shiloh Unity roads. It’s about two miles north of Lancaster. The acreage is a combination of 11 properties.

County planning staff recommended approval of a zoning change to allow the development. So did the county planning commission.

Jon Hardy with Lennar Homes told the planning commission at the group’s September meeting that downtown Lancaster will benefit from the project.

“This town needs rejuvenation, and this is part of it,” Hardy said. “So it will be the gold standard by which development is done in this town.”

Plans are for 480 acres of open space, with homes on lots 55 to 75 feet wide. The biggest risk with the project is three miles of sewer the developer will have to run through the area. It could cost $10 million to $12 million.

If rezoning is approved, construction drawings should be well underway by the end of the year. Development of the property could start about this time next year, with sales starting about this time in 2020.

Road improvements would be needed as the project progresses.

The first phase could have 250 lots. The full project could have 1,892 homes. It would take 10 years to build.

Half of the project would be age-targeted homes, meaning they would be designed to appeal to older residents, unlikely to add students to the school system.

Age-targeted is different from age-restricted, which mandates that only older residents live there.

Students who would live within the development wouldn’t attend the already bustling Indian Land schools. Instead they would go, as district lines are drawn now, to Lancaster High, South Middle and North Elementary schools.

A separate 140 acres are located in the same area. That property would be rezoned from residential to commercial use. Planning staff and the planning commission recommended in favor of the rezoning there.

The nearby site could be used for new commerce when the homes are built, similar to the recently opened Promenade at Carolina Reserve near Sun City.

Another almost 312-acre portion is up for rezoning, north of Jim Wilson and Henry Harris roads.

County planning staff recommended against the rezoning. High-density development in that area creates impacts on schools, water and sewer services, roads and more. Of the 23 public inquiries on the property ahead of the county’s planning commission Sept. 18 meeting, 18 were against the plan.

Hardy told the planning commission that night the larger site is “very large and very risky” with more than $10 million in sewer infrastructure alone. Hardy said the 312-acre site is “more predictable.” It helps mitigate the financial risk for Lennar.

“I can’t do one without the other,” Hardy said.

The site is surrounded by projects like Carolina Reserve, Legacy Park, Bent Creek and Walnut Creek. Hardy said the property may have a rural zoning, but there isn’t farming happening there now.

Without that zoning change, the site could allow for 311 lots. Hardy mentioned to the planning group 377 homes there, though a full plan would have to be submitted before construction.

That plan also would include details like a traffic circle, likely, at Jim Wilson and Henry Harris. Hardy mentioned the new community having a pool, cabana and other amenities. Homes likely would be $400,000 or more.

Indian Land resident Waylon Wilson told the planning commission he supported the rezoning.

“It’s unfair to hold several pieces of property above the norm that is already there,” he said. “Those people have owned that property and should be given the opportunity to sell and have it developed like any other area in the county.”

Other residents had concerns.

“We are concerned that if this is rezoned, then it’s going to increase the traffic in our neighborhood,” neighboring property owner Bennie Nobles told the planning commission. “Our road at this point is substandard and we don’t want to see the additional traffic.”

Honeycutt said there always are issues like road and utilities. He is confident the county can plan for the project to where it’s the “shot in the arm” he envisions.

“We’re not just talking about it,” Honeycutt said. “We’re preparing for it.”

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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