If folks weren’t happy with 842 new homes, just wait until they see what could come.
Kent Olson with Development Solutions Group said his company continues to mull its next move on the Westport property in Lake Wylie.
"We're still evaluating our options,” he said. “There is some dispute about the interpretation of the development agreement, and we are evaluating our options.”
Options include going with a pre-approved plan for twice the proposed number of residences. And not just homes, but apartments, too.
"We'd stripped all the multi-family (apartments) out of it,” Olson said. “We thought we'd get more support, but that’s not what happened.”
Olson said he isn’t planning on making the change yet, but considering it among several choices.
“Severely disappointed that the county didn't embrace our plan,” Olson said. “We were cutting the density in half. So we’ll go back and look at what to do next, which could include possibly bringing back the multi-family.”
How we got here
In February, Olson announced a plan for 842 homes on 432 acres along S.C. 49 and Daimler Boulevard, south of Five Points. The property is part of a more than 2,000-acre planned development mixing residential, commercial and other zoning uses. The development agreement dates back to 2008.
Initially the county approved up to 1,700 residences including apartments. The idea was Daimler Trucks would relocate to the area spurring thousands of new jobs. The company, given a $2 million state incentive in 2008 to purchase land there, chose instead to expand its existing Oregon headquarters.
Olson, a Lake Wylie resident, had to petition the county for Westport, at about half the residential units allowed in the legally binding 2008 agreement.
On May 8, citing traffic concerns, the county planning commission voted 5-4 against the Westport plan. After several more decisions that night, the commission voted to reconsider. The group rescinded its denial and deferred a decision until they could hear from traffic experts a month later.
On June 12, the county zoning committee heard an update ahead of a decision by the planning commission. The planning group received legal advice from county attorney Michael Kendree before taking up Westport.
A motion to deny the project outright died without a second. A motion to approve it failed 3-2. After discussion, the planning commission voted 3-2 to approve the first phase of 570 homes, but not the remaining phase two until a new traffic impact analysis is done.
The developer already submitted several traffic studies. Those documents typically outline, among other factors, road improvements a developer may incur. Planning commission members said several roads or intersections in that area are projected to fall below county standards without improvements planned.
By requiring a new, later traffic study it becomes more likely the study will find greater road needs based on ever-increasing traffic -- including from the first phase of Westport.
Even in making the June decision, county leaders said it wouldn’t surprise them if a legal challenge followed.
If the Westport decision is challenged, or if the planning commission otherwise changes its requirement on the second traffic study, the plan could proceed as Olson first presented it. The first phase would be complete by 2021 and the second by 2024.
Or, Olson can build the first phase and wait on phase two. Or change the plan entirely and re-apply.
There also is the option of going with what the county already approved in 2008. York County Councilwoman Allison Love, who represents the area and won her seat on a controlled or limited residential growth platform, said earlier this year Olson worked with the county as much as could be expected.
While 842 homes is a big number, she looks at it as a drastic reduction from what the county must allow by law. Then again, she supported the planning commission standing up for itself if members say roads can’t support a new development.
“I am closely watching this and other developments in District 2,” Love said. “I have high expectations of builders, developers and of York County as a whole.”
Love understands frustration on both sides of the issue. She hopes frustration won’t lead to what she sees as a step back to the 2008 agreement.
“I believe and hope that as a development with a local name attached to it they will ultimately do what is best for the community,” Love said. “Multi-family is unwanted and would never be considered the best option, and it’s certainly not an only option.”
Prior to the recent planning commission decisions Olson agreed, saying his decision to seek fewer homes rather than more homes and apartments is because of the market interest and a desire in Lake Wylie for reduced building density.
While Olson’s group didn’t get exactly what they asked for, they did get approval on the majority of the homes and could still get final approval, pending a traffic analysis.
“The effect on our infrastructure, specifically Highway 274 in this case, has to be a priority for the planning commission,” Love said. “We can’t keep stamping ‘yes’ on everything. I think approving phase one was a fair compromise.”
Olson initially hoped to have the first home complete early next year with prices ranging from the low $200s to high $300s. That plan includes more than 95 acres of open space and a mile of walking trail.
The 2008 agreement is good for up to 20 years.
Olson said Monday he doesn’t have a timeline for when a final decision might be made on the property.
"This stuff goes slow," he said.