The plan isn’t there yet, but Lancaster County is working toward a solution that could keep hundreds of residents from losing access to the road out of their neighborhood.
And, to keep commuters going on their way.
“We recognize that it’s a major commuter road,” Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes, who represents Indian Land, said of Regent Parkway.
“No trespassing” signs went up on the Lancaster County side of Regent Parkway recently stating it’s a private road. The road belongs to developer Earl Coulston, and dates back to the former Heritage USA park in Fort Mill. Coulston owned the section of Regent Parkway in both York and Lancaster counties, but conveyed the portion on the Fort Mill side of Sugar Creek to York County.
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A representative at Coulston’s office said he wouldn’t be making any more statements on the road issue, referring only to a letter sent to Lancaster County last spring stating the developer would give the road to the county. And that the company would still be interested in letting the county take ownership of the road.
However, because the road isn’t up to state or county maintenance standards, the county declined. But new subdivisions have gone up in recent years, and more are under construction. Residents in the area Monday said they’re concerned about the road closing. If the developer keeps it, they could lose routes to access daycare, grocery stores, schools and more.
Regent Parkway is a major cut through from Fort Mill to Pineville and Ballantyne in North Carolina, as well as Indian Land.
County Council Chairman Steve Harper said he brought the issue back up for discussion Monday night not because he had an answer, but because the county needs one.
“The lawyer in the county has taken a position, but I put it on the agenda to see if anybody has any ideas or recommendations to see if we can get this situation resolved,” he said. “That’s a major access (road) in Lancaster County, and I don’t know what can be done about it.”
Legal advice to date has been to not work on the road because it isn’t county property, and not to take it into the county system because it isn’t up to standards.
“It needs to be resolved, and I don’t know what the answer is,” Harper said.
Carnes said he left the discussion with a better sense that something could be done.
“Our next step will be to try to get a resolution put together saying we want to try to negotiate with the owner about trying to get it under the control of the county,” he said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take.”
Carnes said he’d like to see a resolution up for vote at least by the end of March. The county’s last traffic count put about 10,000 cars per day going through the intersection at the top of the road. The county hasn’t been idle on the issue, Carnes said.
“We’ve been working with (the state transportation department) and the county to put a plan together on how we’re going to handle it,” he said. “The funding of how we’re going to handle it is the issue. You’ve got to have a bucket of money to get the work done to repair it.”
Neither Carnes, nor any other county official could provide an estimate of the potential cost.
York County impacted
The majority of Regent Parkway runs through York County. While York County owns its share, closing the road at the bridge would impact many residents in York County, too. Michael Johnson, who represents the area on York County Council, stated in his recent constituent newsletter that he’s met with Lancaster County, state and other officials on the issue.
“I want to warn everyone reading this newsletter,” Johnson wrote, “that the developer could close the road one morning without warning. This will create a massive traffic jam — especially if it happens during peak hours.”
Johnson notes state law doesn’t allow public funds to be used on private roads, but wrote he believes Lancaster County could take the issue to court as a safety concern or based on the road’s current use in the area. He’s working with law enforcement in York County to prepare for whatever may happen with the road, and the impact on traffic.
“In the interim, I am going to continue meet and work with Lancaster officials to ensure that the road is not closed and to offer any assistance that York County can on this issue,” Johnson wrote.
While the ownership issue of such a heavily trafficked road is unusual, the strains of passing traffic on roads built years ago, isn’t.
Fort Mill Town Councilman Larry Huntley stated several times in recent years, including last fall when he ran for his current term, that pass-through traffic is a major reason drivers in the area have such a hard time getting place to place.
“If there were no homes in Fort Mill, there would still be a traffic problem at 8 o-clock in the morning and 5 o-clock in the afternoon because we have so much pass-through traffic,” Huntley said. “That’s unfortunately a state problem. Well, it’s our problem, but it’s the state’s responsibility.”
Not an isolated problem
Commuting traffic can cause problems when it flows along roads never meant to handle it. Which is what resident Chuck Ledford describes in Carowood, near Tega Cay.
“They’re just trying to beat the traffic and go through here,” he said.
About 100 homes in the community off Gold Hill Road don’t have a homeowner association, he said, and have people parking on the sides of the street. They also complain about blind intersections and a lack of lighting. Yet most mornings and afternoons a stream of cars comes through. Ledford said he is working on a petition he wants to send York County Council, asking for signs discouraging through traffic.
“This neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, it has narrow streets,” he said. “It doesn’t have street lights. But people will cut through here trying to avoid the traffic on (S.C.) 160 and Pleasant Road.”
Like the stretch of Regent Parkway, where new subdivisions popped up since the road was built, Ledford sees issue with the intent of the road versus its current use.
“It’s almost as if the county is trying to get cars to to through here,” he said. “It’s really a dangerous situation out here. These streets were never designed for the volume of cars that’s on them now.”
Ledford wants to see something done in his neighborhood before, he said, something worse than traffic happens.
“This has all been caused by over-development,” he said. “It’s a ticking time bomb.”