IRMO — Lake Murray-area tourism officials get several calls a month from people asking where they can hold an event on the self-proclaimed "Jewel of South Carolina."
“I think that there’s a tremendous need for a facility,” said Miriam Atria, president of the Capital City/Lake Murray Country tourism organization.
Towns around Lake Murray are some of the fastest growing in the Midlands and with demand increasing for gathering space, at least two new venues have opened in the past six months.
But while there are probably a dozen options near the lake, there’s almost nothing directly on the water since the concentration of residential property along its shores clashes with attempts at commercial development.
One new project is trying to fill that void but its neighborhood location may cause issues.
Lake Murray Manor near Irmo is billing itself as a lakefront wedding and event venue but the business still has governmental hurdles to cross before becoming operational.
“Get married on the gorgeous property and choose to have your reception on the grounds or have your party escorted on board a luxury yacht and keep the entire celebration on water,” the venue website advertises.
The 5,370-square-foot Mediterranean style home owned by NFL wide receiver Dontrelle Inman has five bedrooms, six full bathrooms, two kitchens, a patio and pool with swim-up bar and a gazebo with fire pit. The site is advertising rental rates ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 per day or weekend and space for a 125-guest indoor event or 750 guests outdoors. They provide tables and chairs, event planning and valet services.
Area residents are already talking among themselves with concerns about traffic and privacy as the venue sits amid a residential neighborhood with homes within about 100 feet.
The neighbors all agree it’s a beautiful property.
“But, obviously, he had some bad advice as to whether a venue would work there,” said Fairey Logan who has lived in the area for 18 years “Where would they park?”
As a private residence, previous owners would host large parties for friends. Noise from the sound system used to float up to her home late at night and revelers would park along the road in her yard.
Another resident, Linda Barton, also raised concerns about the additional traffic it might bring to an already busy intersection on Salem Church Road.
“It really is different when something public comes into a neighborhood,” Barton said.
And it’s something she and others in the area have already spoken out against once when Richland County spent $2 million in 2015 on the 2-acre property next door to her house planning for a public lake access.
Lake Murray Manor told The State in December it’s working on rezoning the property for its new use. As of Wednesday, Richland County had not received an application. The county's rezoning process takes three months, requiring public hearings and county council approval for the project. Lake Murray Manor representatives declined to answer questions from The Post and Courier.
“I can’t imagine the county zoning that commercial,” Logan said.
Other venues are succeeding, but they're more remote and not on the lake.
The opening of South Wind Acres near Prosperity last August is a sign of the business potential the region holds.
Kim Conness rented the venue when her two daughters both got engaged and wanted a rustic-style wedding venue.
“Everything was booked up,” she said.
Conness said South Wind Acres can host corporate meetings, holiday parties and more for up to 200 people. About 70 percent of the events it books are weddings though, with brides and grooms holding their nuptials under the property’s large oaks.
Guests can stay overnight in one of two houses a mile down the road that the owners rent out. Conness said they have at least one event a month.
And just outside Lexington, the recently opened 12 Oak Estate already has 21 events booked for 2020.
Owner Kevin Snow can accommodate 300 people for events in a former airplane hangar on the property or several thousand on the many acres surrounding the antebellum-style home. Complete with oak trees hung with Spanish moss, he’s hopeful his venue will appeal to those seeking space previously only found by driving to Charleston.
“Lexington is growing so much,” Snow said. “There are more people out here and this is their area. They don’t always want to have to have to drive all the way to Columbia.”
He said, while the Capital City’s downtown boasts a variety of venues, he’s hopeful his will become an iconic spot for the town of Lexington. For accommodations, 12 Oak Estate is only about 11 miles from Columbia’s airport hotels. Eventually, he would like to create a pond on site surrounded by guest cabins.
Snow points to the success of Southern Oaks, a venue not far from his that got its start five years ago and “is really, now, shining.”
“While all of these venues are unique, they’re not on the lake,” Atria said.
That’s left her organization with a line of specific event business it has had to turn away.
“They’ll go to another lake; they’ll go to another venue,” she said.