When it was first announced nearly five years ago, the idea of a Wal-Mart supercenter opening in Stonecrest divided the city. An opposition group was organized, anti-Wal-Mart signs dotted Hwy. 160 West and public hearings that centered on the big-box retailer were often heated.
But when the store finally opened this year, no one was outside picketing.
Herman Stone - who built the first shopping center at the corner of Gold Hill Road and Hwy. 160 West more than 20 years ago, when cow pastures dominated the landscape - had a dream for his family's land. Seeing Wal-Mart open finally made it a reality.
Stonecrest, initially covering approximately 122 acres, is the Tree City's first commercial district. A few years after annexing the land into Tega Cay, Stone's agent, the Tuttle Co., came to him with the prospect of building a Wal-Mart to anchor the site. The only catch was it would require enlarging the plan and renegotiating a development agreement between Stonecrest and the city.
Almost as soon as it was announced, the opposition group, Us Against the Wal, formed to stop it. After countless hours of city council discussion and a controversial public forum during which the leader of the opposition was escorted out of the Fort Mill High School auditorium, the council agreed with Stone that the additional tax revenue and adjacent development the store would bring outweighed concerns over traffic and safety. The city also worked out a lengthy agreement with Wal-Mart to require higher standards on the big box retailer than it faced in many other locations.
The Waterstone, Fieldstone and Millcrest Apartment communities are also built on land that was once held by Stone's grandfather. He said he wanted to see the land put to good use.
Stone still owns a little more than 20 acres on Hwy. 160 West in front of Millcrest and Waterstone, and is seeking a new planned development zoning for it. The new zoning would allow him to build another small commercial center. Currently, it is restricted to residential use.
But that plan has also met opposition from nearby residents. The request was even withdrawn once before Stone resubmitted it. At first, he said an Aldi grocery store and a Discount Tire store would be included in the development. Now, Stone and agent Bryan Tuttle say it's too early to discuss possible tenants for the development should the rezoning be approved. It has already passed two York County Council votes.
When the development is complete, Stone will have developed all of his family's land in Fort Mill Township.