The town of Ravenel could soon expand its limits once again for a proposed new housing development, but environmentalists are digging in against the proposed annexation of nearly 3,000 acres.
Town Council will consider initial approval Sept. 28 to annex the expansive Tea Farm Tract off of U.S. Highway 17 and Old Jacksonboro Road.
About 397 acres are set aside for a planned development district that would include 400 housing units.
The rest of the huge tract, owned by McLeod Lumber Co. of Charleston, would be zoned for agricultural use and is not slated for development, according to Mayor Stephen Tumbleston.
"There is currently no buyer for the area in the planned development district, and there are zero plans for the residual lands," Tumbleston said.
The development district would include about 233 acres near E.B. Ellington School that is currently not in the town limits and another 163 adjacent acres already part of the town.
Plans show the site with 346 single-family residences and 54 attached units, according to the proposed development agreement. A neighborhood commercial center from two to 14 acres and up to 128,000 square feet is also proposed.
Two acres would be set aside for the town's use for services such as fire or police protection or a government services office. About 187 acres are undevelopable wetlands.
Buildout is expected over a 10-year period, and the development would include three access points on Old Jacksonboro Road and one access point onto U.S. Highway 17.
Located in southwestern Charleston County, Ravenel stretches along U.S. Highway 17 and has a population of about 2,700.
As development spreads south along Savannah Highway, the number of residents is expected to grow in the town about 20 miles west of the Charleston peninsula and one mile from Charleston's city limits near Rantowles Creek.
The new annexation proposal follows the town's approval in July to add nearly 600 acres on its southwestern end where U.S. Highway 17 meets New Road. The Golden Grove parcel is slated to have 381 houses between Old Jacksonboro Road and U.S. 17.
A Charleston environmental group opposes the annexation effort because the land is adjacent to the Poplar Grove tract and could lead to denser development than what is currently allowed.
"If it is annexed into the town, then Poplar Grove would be adjacent to the town’s border and would also be eligible for annexation," said Jason Crowley of the Coastal Conservation League. "If the town approves this annexation and development agreement, Ravenel will be transformed forever."
Crowley said current land-use regulations allow one house for every 25 acres on the Tea Farm parcel while the town of Ravenel would allow one new residence per acre in an area outside the urban growth boundary that was established several years ago.
Tumbleston reiterated the town has no plans to develop the rest of the Tea Farm Tract, and the main reason the town is trying to add new housing developments is to help pay for a sewer system it installed 14 years ago that now has 35 customers.
The system's total capacity is 2,080 customers. About 500 sewer taps will likely go for the Tea Farm development while another 500 will be used by the Golden Grove development recently approved on the southwestern end of town.
Another 300 are set aside for future industrial development in Spring Grove, and the town will have to set aside some capacity for future growth along the commercial corridor of U.S. Highway 17, Tumbleston said.
That leaves little room for future development in the rest of the Tea Farm tract, he said.
Crowley is concerned any leftover sewer taps will be used to help the developer of Poplar Grove come into the town, but Tumbleston said there are no plans to do that.
"Once the sewer taps are used over the next 10 to 15 years, they are gone," he said.
Tumbleston also believes the town can maintain its rural character while also expanding its boundaries.
"The last thing we want to do is something that is detrimental to the town of Ravenel," the mayor said.