Berkeley County residents will get their first look Tuesday at plans for a new neighborhood on a former plantation site. And there's already some grumbling about what the growth could mean for the area.
DR Horton and Hoyer Investment Co. are having a meeting at 6 p.m. in Moncks Corner Town Council Chambers to reveal their plans for Gippy Plantation.
“We know that Gippy is a very important and very meaningful piece of land,” said Moncks Corner Community Development Director Doug Polen. “A lot of people have a connection to this piece of land.”
The plantation, off Old Highway 52 between Lewisfield Plantation and Fairlawn Barony, dates back nearly 170 years.
Moncks Corner officials said they have not yet seen the plans for the 800-acre tract, which stretches to the Cooper River. Some speculated the development could include as many as 1,200 homes.
“We’ve been very straightforward with the developer that it’s not simply a matter of saying, ‘OK, the town planner is happy, the Planning Commission is happy, let’s move forward,’” Polen said. “It needs to be something the community’s really going to be behind.”
The meeting was arranged at the request of town officials, but the property is not currently in town limits, said Mayor Mike Lockliear.
“They want to be annexed,” he said. “So far, the developer has done everything that we’ve asked them to do, so we asked them to hold this public meeting so people can see what they are planning.”
Officials with the developer did not return phone calls seeking information.
“The point of the meeting is to be able to show the community why this is the right plan for this piece of land,” Polen said. “I know that the concept is to preserve a lot of the larger trees, a lot of the wetlands out there, to not simply clear-cut everything and throw on a bunch of homes. The concept is to try to be more cognizant of the quality of the land and the history of the land.”
For instance, the existing farm structures on the tract will be renovated into an amenity center, he said.
The issue has kicked up quite a storm on social media, with many people expressing concerns on Facebook about the strain the development would put on roads, schools and other services, and lamenting potential “cookie-cutter” houses on the historic tract.
“This property should be preserved, not just made into another housing development,” wrote Colleen Riffee. “We are losing what is unique and makes us ‘The Lowcountry’s Hometown.’ Please don’t let economic growth be the decision-maker with this land.”
The project would first go to the town’s Planning Commission, which next meets on Nov. 26 — it is not currently on the agenda for that meeting — and then go before Town Council for consideration.
The town has been pretty aggressive about growing recently. In July, the town annexed about 450 acres near Highway 52 and Cypress Gardens Road that could one day be the site of 1,240 residences and 9 acres of commercial businesses.
Gippy Plantation is between that site and downtown Moncks Corner.
Lockliear said that even if the county votes down annexation, the developers could still bring their plans to Berkeley County Council for approval. County zoning would require bigger home lot sizes, officials said.
The plans do not include the privately owned 1852 plantation house, the only existing Greek Revival dwelling in the region, according to records. In 1982, it was the setting for several scenes in the movie "The Lords of Discipline."
The house, which sits on a separate 5-acre tract on Avenue of Oaks, was listed in the National Register in 2016.
Gippy Plantation, named for a nearby swamp, was about 1,850 acres in the 1800s. Its primary crops were rice, cotton and pine.
In 1928, Gippy became the center of an 1,000-acre working dairy farm, that continued into the late 1980s.
Jason Crowley of the Coastal Conservation League said that group is sending out an alert to members to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.