Fort Mill Times

Massive, 5,000-acre annexation close to fruition

The town is expected to double in size before the end of the summer when annexation of some 5,000 combined Clear Springs Development and Leroy Springs acres is targeted for completion.

Most of the zoning and annexation signs that have cropped up recently around town are evidence that two years of planning are expected to culminate with a second reading of the annexation ordinance.

The first reading will be held at a July 14 town council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The public will have a chance to see the plan and ask questions at a public hearing at the July 14 meeting. Also at that meeting, the town council is scheduled to hold first reading on an annexation request for the 332-acre Kanawha development. The second and final reading is scheduled for the council meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on July 28.

Most of the rezonings needed for the Clear Springs annexation are for mixed use, according to town Planning Director Andy Merriman. Some details of the development agreement are still being negotiated.

"Conceptually, we are in the same place," said Town Manager David Hudspeth, "but there are a few details. I think we'll have it worked out by July 28."

The annexation does not include Baxter Village, most of which Clear Springs has already sold.

Talks about folding the 5,000 acres into the town began two years ago, and Clear Springs and Leroy Springs presented the plans publicly about a year ago.

"I always felt the annexation was a good idea," Hudspeth said, "but it's taken about two years to make sure we could provide revenue to the area and provide all the services that would be needed."

Three lawyers representing the town and two representing Clear Springs attended a council workshop session with the developer last week. The town hired Theodore DuBose of Columbia, the same attorney who guided the Fort Mill School District through legal matters for the March 4 bond referendum. DuBose's expertise is in municipal bonds and public finance. He advised the town on complexities of the development agreement in relationship to state law.

Although Clear Springs will build road and sewer and water facilities within its developments, officials are still ironing out intricate details of what the developer should pay as its pro rata share of what it will cost the town to provide the services in coming decades. Details of hookup fees are also being refined.

Clear Springs has agreed to pay impact fees that will go to the school district. One strong selling point for the developments from the outset has been inclusion of a sufficient commercial and light industrial component to provide a tax base for services the developments will require.

The development agreement as it stood last week does requires Clear Springs to donate an acre of land for a new fire station in the northern part of the annexed area when another station is needed there.

Development is expected to begin with commercial property in the Kingsley and Springfield communities.

Kingsley comprises 626 primarily commercial acres with about 1,000 residential units at the northwest intersection of Hwy. 160 West and Hwy. 21 Bypass around a proposed hospital site. "Kingsley Site 2" is 55 commercial acres at the northeast corner of the same intersection. It includes an additional 113 acres of commercial development with about 400 residential units, possibly for senior citizen housing, at the southeast corner of the intersection and a little further south on the southwest side of Hwy. 21 Bypass.

Springfield is 347 primarily residential acres.

Acreage being annexed also includes: 30 single-family and multifamily acres at Merritt; 345 residential acres a Avery; 845 commercial and industrial acres at McAlhaney along the Catawba River; and 452 acres of commercial and industrial at Bradley Park, also along the Catawba River.

Although annexation of about 2,800 Clear Springs Development mixed-use commercial and high-end residential acres is expected to be accomplished by the end of July, actual construction may not begin for a few years. Building the commercial segment will depend somewhat on when a proposed Fort Mill hospital is built. That project is tied up in court.

"It will be based on market demand," said Clear Springs Development President James Traynor. "We want the commercial property to be ready when the hospital opens. But we are talking to companies that want to relocate to this area."

Plans could include a hotel, office space, retail shopping and restaurants, he added. High-end residential housing is planned for a large tract behind the hospital. Clear Springs does plan housing for senior citizens across the street, and "that could happen first," he added.

When the market demands it, the company would like to develop some commercial property on about 350 mixed-use acres north of Nation Ford High School continuing to Hwy. 21 Bypass. The development will carry the Springfield name but is not part of the Springfield development south of the high school.

"We may work on Kingsley and Springfield at the same time," Traynor said. "Completion will happen over a decade."