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East Edisto master plan introduced, published 12/10/09

The massive East Edisto development plan, which will remake a more than 78,000-acre swath of Charleston and Dorchester counties, has hit an important milestone with MeadWestvaco's filing of a development agreement application with Charleston County.

An application fee based upon the amount of land involved -- $301,720 -- speaks to the size of the project, about 32,000 acres of which are in Charleston County.

The filing marks the start of a public process that will create the rules and regulations governing the development as it unfold over the next 50 years or more. In a development agreement, the county and the developer contractually agree upon zoning rules, timetables and provisions for public services.

"We're having our first real, substantive meeting on Tuesday," said County Councilman Elliott Summey, chairman of the council committee created to review the development plan. "This will be the beginning of probably a year-long negotiation."

"There will be a lot of people with a lot of questions, not just the county, but schools, the sheriff, the utilities," Summey said.

MeadWestvaco, now called MWV, laid out its master plan for East Edisto at the end of 2009 after a series of public-input meeting, but that plan relies upon the company and the counties agreeing upon plans to rezone an area roughly 20 times the size of Daniel Island.

In small developments, governments typically rely on zoning rules that spell out the possible uses for specific properties. A property might be zoned for commercial uses or single-family homes, for example.

For East Edisto, the counties are working on a concept known as a form-based code, which looks at the type of development that would be appropriate in a particular area. Such zoning might lay down rules for what is appropriate in a town or a rural area, for example, rather than zoning individual parcels of land.

"What it really has is a progressive hierarchy of scale," said Dan Pennick, director of Charleston County planning.

He said the filing of the application "is significant in that it starts the formal process of negotiations with County Council and the development review team that they appointed."

The review committee, consisting of five council members, will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the county's Public Services Building at 4045 Leeds Ave., North Charleston.

Development of the East Edisto lands is expected to come in three phases over 50 years, but in the end, about 75 percent of the land is expected to remain as green space.

The MWV master plan lays out a series of towns and villages, and several business parks, with most of the early-stage development set for Dorchester County, where Summers Corners is planned near the Legend Oaks neighborhood, and villages called Pine Hill and Ashley Ridge are planned nearby.

In Charleston County, the first 10- to 15-year phase of development is expected to include a business park on U.S. Highway 17 near Old Jacksonboro Road, a nature center along the Edisto River near County Line Road, and the crossroads villages of Good Hope and Greenwood, on Hyde Park Road.

When a development agreement between Charleston County and MWV is reached, which could take most of this year, it would be subject to two public hearings and a vote by County Council.

"If we do our job correctly, then it will be the right thing for the citizens of the county," Summey said.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.