Tension between York County residents and Canadian developer Mattamy Homes has increased since the County Council proposed an amendment to the county’s Lake Wylie Overlay ordinance in early September.
Residents brought up the possibility of a graveyard blocking construction.
The developer’s Lake Crest subdivision project was discussed at length at the York County Council meeting October 6, at which representatives of Mattamy and Lake Wylie residents expressed their opinions about the project’s viability.
The overlay’s purpose, as stated in the York County Code of Ordinances, is to:
- Encourage high quality development in ways not provided for in traditional regulations by addressing the unique character and environment of the Lake Wylie community.
- Insure that development both enhances the desirability and ambiance of the community as a place in which to live, work and assist the community’s economic viability.
- Promote a balance between natural beauty and man-made entities by encouraging attractive, high quality landscaping and useful, well composed and attractive signage.
The goal of the amendment is to “discourage mass grading” near the lake. It would establish a 2,000 foot zone from the lake’s “full pond elevation contour,” at an elevation of 570 feet, in which all development must be single-family housing. Lots that include the 570-foot elevation would need to be a minimum of 1 acre, and those that don’t include the elevation would need to be a minimum of 21,780 square feet, or 0.5 acres. Developments also would need to have buffers and both natural and designed open spaces based on average lot sizes.
Residents within the overlay district near the Buster Boyd Bridge have expressed apprehension about the amendment because of its potential to limit the value of properties in the overlay zone, but they made it clear at the meeting that they are unanimously against Mattamy’s large-scale development project.
The Council will either approve or deny the overlay amendment at its meeting on Oct. 20.
Plan submitted before proposal
Mattamy claimed at the meeting that it is entitled to continue its Lake Crest development project as planned, whether the amendment is approved or not.
The developer bought the land on June 2 for $2.6 million, and submitted its application to the county for preliminary plat approval on June 27, more than two months before the proposed ordinance amendment.
“Respectfully, this project is entitled to proceed under the ordinance in effect at the time of the application,” Mattamy’s attorney, Matt St. Amand, said at the meeting.
He also said this interpretation of the law was “well-recognized” by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which has previously ruled in favor of developers when dealing with similar situations in court.
Water quality, traffic concerns
Lake Wylie residents’ primary concern is the lake’s preservation; the Catawba River, which feeds into Lake Wylie, was ranked fifth on the American Rivers Organization’s Most Endangered Rivers list in 2013.
“Do you all turn on a light in your home? You need Lake Wylie water to do that. Do you brush your teeth? You need Lake Wylie water to do that,” Lake Wylie resident Judy Payne said at the meeting. “We cannot live without the most valuable resource on our planet, and (the council is) responsible for the water’s safety of our little corner of the world.”
Residents are also worried the development would overcrowd the Lake Wylie area, and cause higher levels of traffic.
“There is not a time when there is not traffic on Highway 160 or Highway 49 through Lake Wylie,” Lake Wylie resident Allison Love said at the meeting.
The Lake Wylie area grew at a rate of 189 percent between the years 2000 and 2010, according to council member Bruce Henderson.
There are about twelve pieces of property that would be affected by the overlay district. Most of them are at least an acre.
Mattamy hopes to build 175 housing units on 85 acres of land, and some of these units will sit on .2 acres of land or less
Mattamy has promised 29 acres of open space on the site, according to the county’s Development Services Manager Eddie Moore, in order to compensate for the project’s high density.
The bigger picture
Those who opposed the development urged the County Council to consider the potential of local development opportunities.
“The small landowner has the same profit motive that the corporation has, he wants to protect the future value of the investment in his home,” said Peggy Clickner. “All citizens are entitled to make a profit and protect their investments, not just corporations.”
She went on to cite comments that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has made to the press recently about large developers migrating to the state because of its “low taxes and quality of life.”
“Without proper management, both of these reasons will soon disappear,” she said.
But council Vice Chairman Joe Cox said in an interview after the meeting that Mattamy’s development project was out of the county’s control; he described the community’s demands as “changing the rules after the game starts.”
“I understand they don’t want developer to come in, but at the end of the day they don’t own the property,” he said. “The development’s not just in the overlay area, it’s everywhere.”
But Cox said he would be upset if he owned property within the overlay district as well.
At the meeting, Love said, “Landowners who feel their only buyers are big developers need to find real estate agents that can help them find buyers that can work within the overlay. I have my South Carolina license and I’m more than happy to help them.”