‘Nothing but stepping on us’: York County neighbors balk at latest subdivision pitch

York County Council recently approved mining for dirt at Clover site to help with road projects, including widening Pole Branch Road and the SC 274 Pennies for Progress project in Lake Wylie.
York County Council recently approved mining for dirt at Clover site to help with road projects, including widening Pole Branch Road and the SC 274 Pennies for Progress project in Lake Wylie.

It’s been more than a decade in planning, several years of volleyed requests, and not much has changed.

Neighbors don’t want more homes. Owners say more homes could mean better homes.

A 178-acre property of prime Lake Wylie real estate is again up for a decision in York County regarding how many homes it can handle.

At a public hearing Monday, 19 neighbors offered at times impassioned pleas to York County Council not to grant a rezoning that would up the allowable number of homes from 89 to 149.

Five people — property owners and representatives, a developer and resident on the Charlotte side of Lake Wylie — argued for the higher number.

Jim Davis, a resident on Harper-Davis Road for almost 60 years, summed up what a long line of residents spent more than an hour telling Council.

“The more people you bring, you’re nothing but stepping on us,” he said.

Attorney Stephen McCrae has been working with owners of 457 Highway 274 for 10 years. He represents MT Land in its latest pitch for the property. Three family partnerships own the site. McCrae said he’s been involved with the site through four different York County Councils.

“What this rezoning will do is require the development of the tract into one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the area,” McCrae said.

In 2015, property owners applied for a rezoning to allow up to 250 homes. Council voted it down.

In 2017, owners contracted to sell the site, proposing 178 lots. The plan brought improvements to S.C. 274 and Harper-Davis Road including $66,000 for traffic mitigation. The county planning commission voted against the plan in mid-2017 since a Pennies for Progress referendum to widen S.C. 274 hadn’t yet been approved by voters.

“Of course subsequently, the Pennies for Progress referendum was successful and as a matter of fact, the improvements on which the (traffic study) relied are in the process of being made,” McCrae said.

In January, property owners received preliminary approval for Vista at Lake Wylie with 89 lots, the amount allowed without rezoning.

Monday’s public hearing starts the rezoning process request for more homes, followed by a planning commission date April 8. Council would have to pass three readings after the planning commission hears the case to complete rezoning.

Neighbors aren’t having it.

“That’s never enough,” Davis said. “They want more. Now, why are we wasting all y’all’s time, even to be here? What’s done is done. We have fought it. It’s been wrote down. Let’s move on.”

A main concern for neighbors is traffic. Several say they’ve been in wrecks or near misses as more homes flood Lake Wylie with drivers.

“It’s utter chaos,” said Linda Lyman, a two-decade resident on Harper-Davis. “High traffic. Lots of accidents. I know. I’ve been rear-ended three times. Now it’s beginning to spread outward.”

Lyman said the people who live there now can’t get onto the main highway, let alone if more residents come.

Sean Sides, a homeowner association board member for the 59-home Bluffs subdivision on Mill Creek Road, said he’ll only take his truck and not his wife’s car just so he can see the cars coming toward him on the highway. He said a recent trip took him an hour to get across the shut-down Buster Boyd Bridge, where he saw a fire truck having to use the opposite side of the road.

“Right now I put my life — Jesus takes the wheel every time I pull out to go to work in the morning,” Sides said. “I am serious. It is the scariest thing in my life.”

Peggy Davis, Jim’s wife, said there are four hours every morning and three every afternoon she won’t drive. She can’t turn out off the single-lane road.

“Every day, it is bumper to bumper traffic,” she said.

She said county leaders told her in 1990, Harper-Davis would be paved soon. It still isn’t.

“Some people need to keep up some promises around here,” Peggy Davis said.

Carrie Hartman, a Harper-Davis resident 10 years, figures the difference between the allowed and requested number of homes is about 300 cars. Developers say Vista won’t have access on Harper-Davis and will use it only for emergency vehicles.

“It is going to have a devastating effect,” Hartman said.

Other residents worry the larger plan is another step toward a community they don’t want to become. Lyman compares S.C. 49 now to Cherry Road in Rock Hill. She also looks at another direction.

“We now have been adding subdivisions at a rapid rate,” Lyman said. “The traffic is at an utter standstill. Just like it is in Fort Mill.”

Several residents say they came from Fort Mill or elsewhere when growth pressures got out of hand.

“I’ve seen what this does when you’ve got unchecked growth,” said Beckye Barnes, who moved from Fort Mill.

Barnes is concerned about schools keeping up, from bus routes to teachers to special education services.

“We can barely keep up as it is,” she said.

Bailey Patrick is a managing partner for MPV Partners. He is part of the ownership group and says his team can’t solve all of Lake Wylie’s concerns. He says the bigger question is whether the site better fits the 89- or 149-home plan.

“We’ve been at this for 15 years, and this is not the first time to come before the council,” he said. “Candidly, I hope it’s the last time that I’m involved in this. I certainly expect it to be, whether this is approved or not.”

By-right development relies only on county building code. Property representatives say there aren’t many requirements. The rezoning would involve a development agreement with improved architectural standards, width between homes, buffers, lighting and more, they say.

“It will be a nice project if you can let us move forward with it,” said ownership group member Charles Myers.

Several residents say nice or not, too many homes is too many.

“There’s so many people packed in over there,” Jim Davis said. “Houses bumping together. Firemen can’t put fires out. I mean, things just got blowed out of proportion.”

Residents say they feel developers are given different treatment. Several neighbors said they had to subdivide at least an acre to build a home for a family member.

“These developers, and I have been one, knew what the limits for this property were to be when they bought it,” said Duane Penson, who lives on nearby Island Forks Road.

Penson bought more than an acre on the water in the 1980s. The value has gone up 400 or 500 percent since, he said.

“I would love to unlock some of the financial potential of that lot,” he said.

But, Penson said, the site is zoned for single-family residential. He said it’s wrong, dishonest and disrespectful to the community if he tries to circumvent land use rules. Now in his 80s, Penson developed property in Rock Hill and built the number of homes allowed, he said, not how many he thought he could convince someone to allow.

“The zoning is specific,” Penson said of his Lake Wylie property. “It was specific when I bought the lot. It has not changed. How fair would it be to my friends, my neighbors, this community, if I asked this council to rezone my lot to enrich me at the expense of my friends, neighbors and other members of the community?”

Property owners argue there are allowances for land-use changes, like rezoning. Myers said York County leaders told his group a couple of proposals ago if they stayed at one home per acre and let the Pennies widening come, they would get approval.

“We set out on a three-year journey, and I feel bad if we’ve wasted everybody’s time and money on this,” he said.

At several public meetings since, he said, property owners have listened to neighbors.

“I can’t tell you of anything that was asked of us that we didn’t do,” Myers said.

McCrae understands many neighbors have “unalterable” positions. He points out York County’s land-use plan foresees 2 to 5 homes per acre, even if the zoning doesn’t allow it.

“It hasn’t changed, and that was the case when the owners bought this property,” McCrae said.

Homes likely would be priced in the $600,000 range, the landowners say. McCrae said the increased tax base of $90 million at full buildout would benefit the county. The plan with amenities and a homeowner’s association would age better too, he said, compared to the 89-home plan with little else required.

“Those large lot subdivisions tend to deteriorate rapidly over the years,” McCrae said.

If York County denies the rezoning, it’s unlikely the same group will be back to make another request.

“If we end up with 89 lots, sort of a by-right plan, so be it,” Patrick said. “As owners, it’s a business decision for us. We’re kind of over it. We’re not going to hold out for more tries. We will sell the property.”

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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