Villages at LongCreek Project on Hold

BLYTHEWOOD – In an unusual show of neighborhood solidarity on Feb. 2, 2012, hundreds of LongCreek Plantation residents assembled at the Windermere Club to oppose two developers, Ron Johnson and Steve McNair of LongCreek Associates, who wanted to turn 140 acres of rural, large-lot LongCreek property, some of which bordered Lake Columbia, into a Planned Development District (PDD) that would allow up to 425 housing units, including multi-family and commercial units as well as single family housing. The 140 acres was owned by the original LongCreek Plantation developer, John Bakhaus of Fairways Development, who was working with Johnson and McNair in seeking the rezoning.

That push-back by residents caused a series of delays in the rezoning effort that resulted in Bakhaus eventually selling 40 of the acres, but he, Johnson and McNair pursued the development of the remaining 100 acres located behind the Windermere Clubhouse and around the back nine of the Windermere Golf Course.

The proposed development was called the Villages at LongCreek. As the process wore on over the next year, most residents dropped out of the resistance. Some said their homeowner association’s attorneys had advised against their effort.

To achieve their goal to develop the properties, the developers turned to the County’s Green Code. Residents complained that use of the Green Code was actually relaxing zoning standards that would authorize, among other things, a cluster of houses in one area and lot areas substantially smaller than that allowed in the Residential, Single Family Housing, Low Density district in which the project was planned.

The Richland County Development Review Team examined the matter twice and approved it twice in favor of the rezoning. The first approval was overturned by the Planning Commission because it was incorrectly submitted. The second approval was appealed by LongCreek residents Samuel T. Brick and Monica Iskersky, who alleged that the project was in violation of zoning standards and that it did not comply with the County’s comprehensive plan.

The Planning Commission heard the appeal but upheld the Development Review Team’s decision, saying, basically, that the Green Code allowed major changes to the zoning provisions because a Green Code requirement says there is no minimum lot limitation within Green Code projects. According to Brick, that decision would permit anyone utilizing the Green Code to disregard the area’s zoning standards altogether. Brick contends that is not what the County Council intended when it initiated the Green Code.

Last fall, Brick appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the Richland County Circuit Court and the project has been on hold since then, pending the Court’s hearing and final decision. Brick’s appeal was filed on March 18, but no court date has been.

In the meantime the County Council has scheduled a new provision to replace the Green Code, calling it “Open Spaces Standards.” That provision is scheduled to be heard by County Council on May 28. Brick said this week that he was set to file for injunctive relieve against the provision. The outcome of that filing was still in limbo at press time.