Plantation Residents: Things Reek in LongCreek

BLYTHEWOOD – Some residents of Blythewood’s LongCreek Plantation subdivision are accusing the Board of Directors of their Property Owner’s Association (POA) of turning a blind eye to a developer, Gateway LLC, who residents say is blatantly disregarding the neighborhood’s deed restrictions and covenants as it develops a new neighborhood within LongCreek Plantation. Sam Brick, an attorney and resident of the subdivision, but not a member of the POA, said there are, so far, no responses from either the POA or Richland County to Gateway’s actions.

Gateway purchased 10 acres at the southern entrance to LongCreek Plantation March 15, 2013. According to members of the POA and other residents of the subdivision who asked not to be identified, Gateway, earlier this year, proceeded to rip out a landmark giant oak tree and the subdivision’s substantial sign and fountain at that entrance on Longtown Road to make way for another smaller entrance (in the same location as the tree and sign) to serve a new neighborhood proposed on the 10 acres. Brick said the tree and sign were specifically protected in the property’s deed restrictions and should be addressed by the POA board.

“When John Bakhaus, the developer of LongCreek Plantation, sold the 10 acres to a Presbyterian church about 14 years ago, it was specified in the deed that the tree and fountain must not be removed,” Brick said.

When Gateway LLC purchased the property last year, the owners signed a deed that stated (section F of page 5 of the deed restrictions) that “Additionally, the LongCreek Plantation Sign and overhanging tree shall be left intact.”

In addition to the ruckus over the destruction of the tree and sign, Brick said the zoning for the 10 acres is medium density with 8,500-square-foot minimum lot sizes.

“Yet, the developers are not abiding by this in almost half the planned lots and the County is not honoring the zoning in its approvals of these site plans,” Brick said.

Some residents also say flooding from recent thunderstorms (at the adjacent intersection of Longtown Road and Longtown Road East and West) is the result of Gateway’s failure to abide by the covenants, which, they say, state that no more than 40 percent of the area may be disrupted during construction of the roads, sewers, etc.

Brick told The Voice that Gateway’s designs also call for a four-way traffic stop on Longtown Road East between the Windermere Club and the four-way stop at the entrance to LongCreek at Longtown Road.

“The POA has standing on these issues but is doing nothing to protect us. It’s burying its head in the mud,” Brick said. “The POA is responsible for upholding covenants of title but have done nothing so far in this case.”

The Voice received several email notices from residents that the POA had called for a meeting Wednesday evening (June 11) at the Columbia Country Club to discuss these issues. However, POA members received an email from the LongCreek POA on Tuesday, June 10, stating that the meeting was not for the residents, but a regular monthly POA Board of Directors meeting.

“Any member of the POA is allowed to attend the meeting,” the email stated, “unless it is called into Executive Session. Non- members of the POA are not allowed to attend, unless specifically invited…”

The Voice obtained a copy of the meeting agenda, which did not list any of the residents’ concerns regarding the Gateway development, but mundane items including: website update, a neighborhood yard sale and the LongTown nature trail. An executive session was listed but there was no explanation, as is required by the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, as to the purpose of the session.

Brick said many of the residents of the subdivision are hoping the POA board will open the meeting to the residents and hear their concerns about the construction at the entrance.

The Voice left email and voice messages for LongCreek Plantation developer John Bakhaus; the agent for Gateway LLC, Kenneth E. Ormand Jr. and the president of the LongCreek POA, Stephen Stackhouse, but had not received any responses at press time. Since the Wednesday meeting of the POA was held after The Voice went to press, that report will appear in the June 20 edition.