Plans for massive 2,900-home project south of Charlotte move forward

Residents packed the Fort Mill Town Council chamber Monday night to speak at a public hearing on a massive development proposal.
Residents packed the Fort Mill Town Council chamber Monday night to speak at a public hearing on a massive development proposal.

A plan for thousands of new homes and businesses on more than 700 acres near downtown is halfway to approval.

Fort Mill Town Council voted three times Monday night in favor of a plan for property owned by former U.S. Rep. John Spratt. All three votes, each on part of the overall mixed use proposal, require a second public hearing and second approval.

The hearing and votes are expected June 27.

Approval came after dozens of residents showed up to go on record against the plan.

“We’re trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Councilman Ronnie Helms said.

The Spratt property involves three decisions:

▪  The developer wants the town to annex about 688 acres at Spratt Street, Brickyard Road and Fort Mill Parkway. Annexation would require a new zoning in town. The developer wants mixed use, which allows residential and non-residential land uses. It is now under York County light industrial zoning, which doesn’t allow residential use and would remain in place without the town annexation.

▪  The plan includes 23 acres at Kanawha Street and Brickyard Road. That land already sits in town limits, already with residential zoning. The developer wants the same mixed use zoning as for the larger property, with plans to combine them into one large project.

▪  A development agreement is needed between the town and developer Kanawha Land. That agreement would outline possible uses and standards for the entire, combined property. Even with mixed use and in-town status for all the acreage, a development agreement with the town is required.

The developer originally approached the town with plans for up to 3,400 residences, but the request dipped to a mix of 2,900 homes and multifamily units by the time it reached a planning commission vote June 1. Also planned are between 350,000 or more square feet of commercial space and more than 60 acres set aside for park and recreation use.

The project would build out over 20 years. Spratt said it is likely the property would be sold next year.

The town planning commission recommended all three parts of the proposal, with slight changes, including upping minimum lot sizes and requiring at least 15 percent of the new residences to be age-restricted to seniors.

Of the more than 70 people who turned out for Monday’s meeting, many opposed the project. Others supported either the project, or Spratt’s right to choose how his land is developed; Some residents who spoke had suggestions for the property if the town approves the plan.

Resident Matt McNeely said Council members ran on promises of reducing traffic, and allowing up to 2,900 homes wouldn’t do it.

“This seems a perfect opportunity to step up and uphold your promise,” he said.

Emily Guin of Fort Mill said her family has three generations of roots in town on property just beside the Spratt land, and “we will no longer be us” if the project is approved, transitioning Fort Mill from the “country town” she loves.

“Can we call it that still?” she asked. “Can we be proud of that still?”

Dan Evans, another resident, said he supports the plan, believing it “does have Fort Mill’s best interests at heart.” He said he sees the recreation donation and thinks of sports facilities like Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, which attracts tourism dollars by hosting large soccer tournaments.

“You’re putting people in hotels,” Evans said. “You’re putting people in restaurants.”

Several deciding factors tilted Council’s decision, members said.

Councilman Larry Huntley recalled the development of Baxter, which isn’t in town limits because, he said, Council at that time didn’t want to grow and extend utilities there. Baxter proves why the most common resident concerns — traffic and school impact — aren’t reasons to avoid annexation, he said.

“There’s not one less house on that site,” Huntley said. “There’s not one less car on the interstate. There’s not one less child in the Fort Mill school system.”

Another factor is Rock Hill, which sits right across the river from the Spratt property. Huntley said Rock Hill “can’t wait” to annex the property if given the choice, giving Rock Hill the tax revenue, but Fort Mill the road and even school impact.

“You can annex across a river,” explained Joe Cronin, town planning director.

Councilwoman Lisa McCarley sees several imperfect options. Apart from Fort Mill annexing the property, York County could rezone it, or Rock Hill could annex and rezone. Neither of those options is preferable, she said, to Fort Mill having control of the property.

“The passion on this Council is much greater than that of those other two entities that could be involved,” McCarley said.

Council members also addressed comments they’ve read on the Fort Mill Times’ Facebook page and elsewhere on social media and heard directly, including accusations of trying to “fast-track” the development and the town’s motivation to approve the project.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with greed,” said Mayor Guynn Savage. “It has to do with the proposal.”

Councilman James Shirey said Council “doesn’t fast-track anything.”

Town staff has been working with Spratt and his team for eight months coming up with a plan to benefit both, Shirey said. The fact a former longtime congressman and Spratt family member presented the plan wasn’t part of the approval, Shirey said.

The Spratt family in this area dates back as far as Fort Mill itself.

“We don’t care if your name is Spratt, Smith or Jones,” Shirey said.

Council members said their decision is whether to be involved with and benefit from the development of the property, not whether the property is developed.

“That’s not our choice,” Huntley said.