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Market strategy changed

Greenwood: Liberty Hill Farms development choked by sour economy

Posted: December 2, 2010 9:24 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2010 5:00 a.m.

When Greenwood Development Corp. announced it was creating Liberty Hill Farms in 2006, the company marketed the nearly 3,500-acre property on and around the shoreline of Lake Wateree as a “low density community with 15- to 50-acre home sites” with a more than 1,000-acre permanent conservation area.

Four years later, the company -- now known as Greenwood Communities and Resorts -- has changed its plans, citing a sour economy.

Earlier this week, Greenwood announced it would sell the entire 3,500 acres at $5,000 per acre, or approximately $17.5 million. Greenwood is also willing to sell the land in seven tracts of between 217 to 854 acres each and ranging in cost from $2 million to $3.6 million. Approximately 1,478 acres are in Kershaw County and 1,974 are in Lancaster County. In 2006, Greenwood purchased the land from Crescent Resources for $28.6 million, or $7,500 per acre.

Greenwood had envisioned “a community geared toward outdoor recreation, centered around natural amenities such as the conserved land, seven miles of shoreline, and a network of trails for hiking, biking, ATV excursion and horseback riding,” according to a press release at the time.

Kershaw County entered into an agreement with Greenwood promising to provide a new bridge over Singleton Creek and improvements to Wildlife Road, which was originally planned as the main road into Greenwood’s subdivision. But work on the county’s end has been far from smooth. 

Councilman Jimmy Jones, who has been vocal in his opposition to the Wildlife Road project, called it a “road to nowhere.” Jones said the county tore down a perfectly good bridge for no reason.

“This is absolutely one of the worst decisions the county has ever made,” Jones said. “This is one of the biggest pork projects Kershaw County has ever entered into. We signed a contract with them and provided a blank check … it (was) a great deal for them.”

Jones also criticized county employees for their poor judgment, saying they trespassed on property, cut into rights of ways, and didn’t receive appropriate permits.

“We committed every violation under the sun,” Jones said.

On the other hand, Council Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr., who supported the agreement with Greenwood, said he still believes it was the right move for the county.

“It’s a no-brainer for me … I still support the project -- how else do you purchase lake property for future generations,” Tucker said referring to a more than 100-acre site for a public park in Kershaw County. “This is for our kids and our kids’ kids.”

Tucker admits many of the problems for the county have been “self-inflicted,” saying some county employees “did things they had no business doing up there.”

Bob Haynie, an assistant vice president with Greenwood, agreed the project has been essentially at a standstill.

“Honestly, we haven’t been doing much the last couple years … waiting for the economy to turn,” Haynie said.

Road access has been the main factor in getting the obstacle-ridden project moving, he added.

“We’re just now getting in a position with the county where we can get good, consistent access,” said Haynie. “It’s been a little slow to get the bridge project moving … we’re not criticizing the county. We understand they have a vested interest here, as well, since they purchased 100 acres for the public park, but it’s been slower than we had hoped.”

According to Greenwood, the property is listed by “Palmetto Development Services, a wholly-owned brokerage service of Greenwood Communities and Resorts. PDS will sell individual tracts as drawn, any combination of tracts, any other reasonable subdivision or the property as a whole. PDS preference is to progress in sales from the ends to the middle.”

The $5,000 per acre is only for purchase of the entire land, Haynie said.

“As it is everywhere, land cost depending on where it is, and the more of it you purchase, it’ll be a better price per acre,” he said. “Our biggest frustration has been with the market, obviously. Buyers for second homes just aren’t really out there right now. If it doesn’t move, then we’ll look at a different development plan. We’re just reacting to the market right now. We’ll be happy to sell either way, as the entire tract or the single tracts.”

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