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Dead in the water?

Lake Wateree development plans remain stalled

Posted: March 8, 2012 3:41 p.m.
Updated: March 9, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Nearly 6-year-old plans for the development of a 3,500-acre, resort-style community on Lake Wateree remain stalled.

Greenwood Communities and Resorts purchased the land in 2006 with the intent of establishing a low-density community known as Liberty Hill Farms with 15- to 50-acre home sites and a more than 1,000-acre conservation area.

Greenwood bought the land from Crescent Resources, a Charlotte-based real estate company, for $28.6 million, or $7,500 per acre, but announced in December 2010 it would be putting the entire 3,500 acres on the market for $17.5 million, or $5,000 per acre. At the time, the company said it would be willing to sell the property as seven 217- to 850-acre tracts, ranging in cost from $2 million to $3.6 million each.

According to Bob Haynie, a Greenwood assistant vice president, the company’s intentions of developing or selling the lake property have not progressed as a result of the economy and the current housing market.   

“We’re still in a hold mode,” Haynie said. “All we can kind of do now is mothball it.”

He noted the company originally envisioned the subdivision as a secondary home community geared toward outdoor recreation with the inclusion of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding and dove hunting.

Haynie said the property was up for sale because of the large amount of capital invested in the development.

“We’re a developer and if you can’t develop a piece of property, then you’d prefer to not have your capital tied up.” He indicated the company has received a number of inquiries about the land, but “nothing really serious.”

Cathy Anderson, Greenwood’s director of corporate marketing, echoed Haynie’s statement that plans have not moved forward.

“That’s not a project that we’re proceeding with at this point,” Anderson said. “We really didn’t get all that far into the planning. It was still sort of open to ‘we could do it this way or we could do it that way.’ We really never nailed it down.”

During the initial development of the property, Kershaw County struck a deal with Greenwood to purchase about 120 acres of the company’s land for the development of a public park near the subdivision. The county also entered into an agreement with Greenwood to provide a new bridge over Lake Wateree’s Singleton Creek and improve Wildlife Road, intended to be Greenwood’s main entrance.

County Council Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr. said improvements to Wildlife Road were necessary for the development of both projects.

“It was a tough road, a lot of red clay. It wasn’t passable,” Tucker said.

He said he felt establishing the public park would create long-lasting benefits for the county.

“When we purchased that, it was for Kershaw County residents to have access to the lake really for the rest of their lives,” Tucker said. “We knew at the time that we did not have the money to develop it, but we also knew the land would not go bad. When better economic times come, we can find a way to fund it and develop it. But those plans have been put on the back burner and not revisited.”

Haynie said the county continues to keep the road clear in case the project becomes viable again.

“The county, in the contract to buy the property for the park, obligated itself to bring the road to a pave-able standard. It’s currently not in a pave-able standard, but we’re not pushing them to do that at this time because it would be our decision to pave it or not. There’s no reason to pave it at this point,” Haynie said. “But the county is maintaining it. They run a motor grader down it now and again when it gets rough.”

Councilman Jimmy Jones, an opponent of the Wildlife Road project, said he believed the county tore down a “perfectly fine bridge” at Singleton Creek and interfered with the local habitat around the lake while trying to make improvements to the area.

Jones also said the county rushed through the 2006 negotiations with Greenwood, a result, he said, of poor management by previous county administrations and past council members.

“What they did was give Greenwood all the say-so and then the county said we’ll just write the checks. I felt like anything we ever did up there, it would be up to Greenwood to approve it,” Jones said.

County Administrator Vic Carpenter said he believed developing the park project was likely not an immediate objective for council.

“If it were completed, it would be a great asset for the county. So it’s a priority in one sense that quality recreational facilities for the county are important, but given funding restrictions, it’s not in a position to be funded right now,” Carpenter said.

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