Jacquelyn Heyward, mayor of the little town of Hollywood, promises to join with residents and “protect and preserve its natural environment.”
And that’s just what they did last week. In a big way.
Hollywood Town Council voted “no” to annexing 750 acres of unincorporated land in Charleston County known as Poplar Grove. In doing so, council members said they like their small town and its rural lifestyle (the population was less than 5,000 in 2012). The idea of up to 5,000 new houses (seven per acre) didn’t suit them at all.
So little Hollywood stood its ground against a major development, and the small but clear voice of the people was heard loud and clear.
Vic Mills, the would-be developer, points to the much larger first phase of Poplar Grove as an indication that he is actually a conservationist. However, Mr. Mills’ original plan for phase one of Poplar Grove included up to 3,500 houses on 4,500 acres. It was approved by Dorchester County.
He reduced the scope to 400 houses after conservation groups paid him $10 million for an easement on two-thirds of the land.
The Poplar Grove development ended up being considered a victory for the environment and for the developer.
You have to wonder why Mr. Mills wanted a zoning change for the remaining 750 acres, which are in Charleston County, that would allow him to build up to 5,000 houses. Current zoning would allow 37 houses.
Mr. Mills told Town Council that he would likely build far fewer houses than that — somewhere around 500. Then why not seek zoning for that density?
The open-ended plan made people justifiably uneasy. As did the realization that, should Mr. Mills sell the property, the next owner might decide to build it out as densely as the law allows.
On the town website, Mayor Heyward refers to Hollywood “where the sounds of nature prevail from daylight to dusk. The Hollywood where the land resources are plentiful and allow its residents to enjoy community gardening, horseback riding, golfing, fishing, and family gatherings; yet close enough to larger municipalities to benefit from their employment opportunities and cultural activities.”
Annexing property that could legally accommodate twice the town’s population, or more, would surely change the nature of Hollywood. Residents could forget about being rural, and get used to more traffic.
Unless Mr. Mills has alternate plans that might satisfy Hollywood residents, he can forget about the latest phase of his development. He would need to get sewer service from Hollywood. The city of Charleston would provide water.
One Poplar Grove property owner spoke to Hollywood Town Council on behalf of Mr. Mills’ second-phase plan, saying the first phase has had very little impact on the area.
But that is precisely because of the way the original plan was altered. Had Mr. Mills built 3,500 houses instead of 400, the traffic and noise would have been very noticeable.
The people of Hollywood live there because of the rural lifestyle. They don’t want to sacrifice it, so they said “no.”
And so did their council.
Hollywood: small but determined — and still rural.