Poplar Grove development agreement shot down
HOLLYWOOD — The Poplar Grove development likely won’t expand into Charleston County, which represents a victory for some town residents and conservationists.
Hollywood Town Council voted unanimously Monday against a proposed development agreement for the 750-acre property, which was requested by developer Vic Mills.
Mills also had asked that the town annex the property, which currently is in an unincorporated part of Charleston County. If annexed, the development could have hooked up to the town’s sewer system, something that isn’t available in the rural parts of the county. The city of Charleston would have provided water.
Ed Holton, Hollywood town planner, said he thinks Mills likely will pull his application for annexation now that the development agreement has been shot down. If the development had moved forward, the new houses would have been built on the 750 acres in Charleston County, just across the Dorchester County line from the existing Poplar Grove development.
At a public hearing before the Town Council meeting, Hollywood resident Kevin Scott said he strongly opposed the town annexing the development. “I have a thing about developers who come here and want things but don’t want to give the town anything.” Developers are here to make money, he said, “but it’s not all about money.”
But some of Mills’ supporters also showed up to comment.
Russell Fortenberry, who owns property in Poplar Grove, said he supported the annexation. So far, he said, the development has had very little impact on the area. “People don’t even know where it is.”
The county’s zoning now allows one house every 25 acres. The town’s proposed zoning would have allowed seven houses per acre.
But Mills said he likely would have built only about 500 houses there.
Michelle Sinkler, spokeswoman for the Coastal Conservation League, said the proposed zoning change would have allowed the developer to build about 5,000 houses on the land, compared to 37 under the current zoning. “That’s wildly inappropriate for the area,” Sinkler said. “The area out there is rural and people out there want it rural,” she said.
Holton said before the meeting that the proposed development agreement could be modified. But council members instead voted down the plan.
State Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, said he was opposed to the plan. “I have a problem giving a developer half of the available sewer taps,” he said. Many local residents have been waiting for the sewer lines to be extended so they could hook into it, he said.
He’s pleased council voted against the plan. “It’s too much too fast,” he said.
Hollywood Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward said allowing the developer to purchase several hundred sewer taps wouldn’t have been a problem. The town has 1,000 taps available. In 2012, the town sold only 13 taps.
Many people in the town can’t hook up to its sewer system until the lines are extended, she said. But that is extremely expensive, and the town has no money available to do that.
Sinkler said Mills’ history in the area also raises some red flags among residents.
In 2005, Mills’ original plan for the Dorchester County portion of Poplar Grove was for a much denser development than the one that ultimately was built.
That ignited a fiery debate about the future of the Ashley River corridor.
The debate ended when Mills agreed to build only 400 homes on the 4,500-acre property, and to put two-thirds of it under conservation easement. Several conservation groups paid him $10 million for the easement.
As part of that agreement, owners of Middleton Place, Millbrook Plantation and Uxbridge Plantation put an additional 9,000 acres in conservation easements.
Jennifer Blackwelder lives in the Charleston County portion of Poplar Grove now. And she wanted it to stay the way it was. It’s a wonderful community, she said. Mills’ proposal created a rift in the community, she said. “It’s not the right time.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.