RAVENEL — The Rev. Robert Stokes wants to make sure longtime, lower-income residents aren’t priced out of their homes after MeadWestvaco begins building the massive East Edisto development in the southwestern part of Charleston County.
Stokes, from Mt. Horr AME Church on Yonge’s Island, said that’s what happened to a lot of Mount Pleasant residents when that area began to be developed.
He was one of dozens of people who attended a community meeting Wednesday at Ravenel Community Hall to learn more about, and weigh in on, MWV’s proposed 78,000-acre development.
“The people in the area could be squeezed out,” Stokes said. And he wants MWV to be aware of that, and to do what it can to prevent it “right from the ground level.”
Kenneth Seeger, president of MWV’s community development and land management division, said the company previously has held 22 public meetings. But that was a few years ago, and it was time for an update on the status of the development.
At earlier meetings, residents living near the proposed development were mostly concerned about preserving the area’s rural character, jobs and economic development, and services, such as medical care, Seeger said.
And residents raised similar concerns Wednesday.
The development straddles the Charleston-Dorchester county line, with about 30,000 acres of it falling in Charleston County. MWV representatives said they expect the development to be built over the next 50 years. And they plan to keep 75 percent of it rural.
The Dorchester County portion of the development took a step forward recently when County Council gave preliminary approval to a development agreement.
In a development agreement, the county and the developer contractually agree upon zoning rules, timetables and provisions for public services.
The development agreement for the Charleston County portion of East Edisto could take another 12 to 18 months, Seeger said. But progress has been made.
Charleston County Council already has passed three of four ordinances that are needed before a development agreement could be approved, he said. The fourth ordinance, which is related to a new form of zoning called “form-based code,” should pass this month, he said.
Form-based code 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.
Residents Wednesday were thinking about more practical issues.
James Bowman, who lives near the proposed development, said he wants to make sure that MWV includes in East Edisto only businesses that are safe for the environment. He doesn’t want anything built like the nearby former Stoller Chemical company, which is not part of East Edisto.