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No plans for county-owned Greenwood parcel

Posted: December 20, 2013 4:33 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County currently has no plans to develop or otherwise use a 122-acre piece of property associated with Liberty Hill Farms the county controls. The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to preserving natural resources, recently purchased a more than 3,500-acre site once known as the Singleton Creek Tract from Greenwood Communities and Resorts Inc. for $9.187 million.

The purchase does not include the 122-acre Kershaw County parcel, according to Conservation Fund South Carolina Director Jason Johnson.

In 2006, Greenwood -- then known as Greenwood Development Corp. -- purchased the 3,500-acre site with the intent of creating an upscale residential development, split into only a relatively low number of large lots. Two years later, in early 2008, Kershaw County purchased the 122-acre parcel from Greenwood for $946,232. As part of the deal, the county agreed not only to develop it strictly as a “primitive park,” but to improve Wildlife Road, a common access for both the proposed park and Greenwood’s development. Approximately $516,000 worth of agreed improvements originally included repairing a bridge condemned by the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The county later tore down and replaced the bridge. That, and other issues, set off a debate amongst Kershaw County Council members.

In December 2010, Greenwood announced plans to sell off its investment, citing the soured economy. By then, Kershaw County Councilman Jimmy Jones called the Wildlife Road project a “road to nowhere” and “one of the worst decisions the county has ever made.” Jones also claimed county employees trespassed on property, cut into rights of way and failed to receive appropriate permits.

Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr., on the other hand, felt somewhat differently at the time. Tucker had called the acquisition of the 122-acre site as a “no-brainer,” citing its proposed use as a public park in Kershaw County. Tucker did admit, however, that some county employees had done things “they had no business doing up there.”

Council voted earlier that year to spend $445,000 to replace the bridge, which Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter confirmed had been completed.

However, Carpenter said there has been, and continues to be, no way for the county to create a park on the site because Greenwood did not move forward with its plans.

“The original concept was completely predicated on Greenwood developing the property into an upscale community,” Carpenter said in an email Friday. “The revenue from the newly generated property taxes was the source of funding to build and maintain the property. So, with no chance of development, there’s no way to pay for the park.”

Carpenter further explained that with the property’s remote location, it would only make sense to create a park if there were enough Kershaw County residents living close by to use it.

“Without the Greenwood development, that cannot happen, either,” he said.

According to Johnson, The Conservation Fund plans to sell the Greenwood property to the state of South Carolina. He said it would be sold to the state in phases for ultimate management by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Johnson said DNR plans to maintain the land as undeveloped property for use by the public. He said The Conservation Fund hopes to sell the state the first 1,628 acres of property, in Lancaster County, sometime in the next month to month and a half. Subsequent sales will take place during the following year to year and a half, to include the remainder of the land in both Lancaster and Kershaw counties.

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