Thousands of acres along U.S. Highway 17 near Ravenel could become the site of new neighborhoods, a retail center and an industrial park if Charleston County Council OKs the latest proposal from a developer.
“What they are trying to do is a big deal,” said Dan Pennick, county planning director.
The effort could shape the future of the western part of the county for the next 50 years, he said.
The project, dubbed Spring Grove, would be governed by a proposed development agreement that 75 percent of its 14,500 acres remain rural, meaning one building per 25 acres, officials said.
Ken Seeger, president of WestRock Land and Development, said Spring Grove is envisioned as a place where residents will live, work and play rather than a bedroom community of commuters.
“You are not creating housing where people have to drive to get everything. The people that live there can stay for the most part in that area,” Seeger said.
He noted the proximity of a rail line and the newly expanded four-laned U.S. 17 south from Jacksonboro to Interstate 95. Those things make the location logical for a business park, he said.
“This is seen by Charleston County and their economic development folks as a viable job center and that’s why we included the business park in the plan,” he said.
County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said Spring Grove is a positive for the county.
“It’s transformed over time. I think it’s gotten better,” he said.
The project includes a lot of open space, he said.
“I know they are really working hard with the conservation community.”
Ravenel Town Councilman Curtis Inabinett said that Spring Grove sounded like a good thing for the area.
“I think it will be a plus. Obviously we do need more manufacturing and business out in lower Charleston County. Hopefully with this development, it may be a way of jump-starting a few things,” Inabinett said.
“We’ve been saying to the county for a long time we kind of felt that we’ve been neglected in a lot of areas as far as growth in Charleston County,” he said.
Myles Maland, project manager for the Coastal Conservation League, said the group has been in negotiations with WestRock about the project and been encouraged by the conversations. However, Maland said he had just received the latest proposal on Friday and had not had time to study it.
Nearly 11,000 acres of Spring Grove will be subject to restrictive covenants limiting density to one dwelling unit per 25 acres. About 740 acres will be a business park and about 40 acres would be a regional retail district, according to the applicant.
“The remainder of Spring Grove will be developed as interconnected mixed-use communities that provide residential and employment opportunities,” the applicant states.
The residential portion of the development would be split into “settlements” ranging from 1,400 dwellings to 150 homes. Overall, the project would have 7,500 dwelling units in a “town,” “village” or “corner.”
Summey said Spring Grove is a good site for a business park.
“We’d like to see them market it and get something going out there. There’s no reason why a Volvo supplier or a Daimler supplier couldn’t locate out there just as easy as Jedburg. I think it’s a viable site. It’s got rail, it’s got water, it’s got sewer,” he said.
When first proposed, the project was on 31,000 acres, but the footprint has shrunk by about half. The remaining 17,000 acres will remain rural in perpetuity, Seeger said.
“It’s our goal in the end that at least 75 percent of the East Edisto planning area be permanently rural, which means have a density restriction on it,” Seeger said.
The developer, MWV-East Edisto Spring Grove LLC, has filed applications with the county seeking comprehensive plan and zoning map amendments as well as a development agreement. The applicant seeks designation of the project as a development of county significance that is compatible with the surrounding rural and agricultural character.
Spring Grove officials will give an overview of the proposed project to the County Council Planning and Public Works Committee on Aug. 20. The county Planning Commission will review and make recommendations on the applications at its meetings on Aug. 24, Sept. 14 and Sept. 28. County Council will hold public hearings on the project Aug. 25 and Sept. 29.
Documents filed with the county describe the project as having 8,849 acres of highland and 4,659 acres of freshwater wetlands. Much of the development would be clustered near U.S. 17.
A development agreement with the county will spell out WestRock’s obligation to the county in terms of utilities, infrastructure and other issues, Seeger said.
About 700 acres of highland adjacent to a CSX rail line has been designated an economic development area in Charleston County. The developer believes companies would have an interest in locating there.
The developer held more than two dozen public meetings on the project.
“What we heard was that people in this area needed (nearby) employment. This area could become sort of the local destination for jobs and goods and services and housing in a variety of price ranges some of which would be affordable to local people,” Seeger said.
“In the process we would be preserving the surrounding area as rural land so that the character of the area would not be significantly impacted,” he said.
Zoning and the development agreement for the project should be finalized with the county by the end of the year, he said.
The business park will be the first part of Spring Grove. Depending on market conditions it could have its first tenants in about five years, he said.
Overall, WestRock’s East Edisto development covers 72,000 acres across Charleston and Dorchester counties. Dorchester County Council has approved its part of the project, which is underway near the Legend Oaks subdivision. As in Charleston County, 75 percent of the land will remain rural, with deed restrictions into perpetuity.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or Twitter.com/prentissfindlay.