Dickerson Will OK 375 Homes for Heins & Langford Roads

BLYTHEWOOD (Nov. 19, 2015) – Residents along Heins and Langford roads in Blythewood say they do not feel they have the support of their County Council representative as they prepare to attend a public hearing at Richland County Council chambers on Tuesday to protest a rezoning request. The request, made by the Drapac Group, an Australian real estate developer with offices in Atlanta, Ga., could allow as many as 529 homes to be constructed on 202 acres in the middle of their farms and rural large acre residential properties.

In a recent exchange of emails, the County Council representative for the area, Joyce Dickerson, explained to residents that she had a responsibility to the developer as well as to the residents, and that she had decided against a promised second community meeting before the  Nov. 24 public hearing to be held by County Council on the issue.  When residents asked Dickerson in a subsequent email to explain her responsibility to a developer who did not live in her district or in Richland County, Dickerson replied via email, “I do not have a responsibility to the developer. It’s about having the rights and privileges to do business in the county based on the comprehensive plan.”

According to the Comprehensive Plan on the County’s website, the Plan serves as a guide for future zoning but does not require a particular zoning. Zoning decisions are made by the County Council.

At a community meeting on Oct. 1, Councilwoman Dickerson, said she would not approve more than 500 homes in the proposed Drapac development.Residents asked the developer’s representative, Joel Tew, if Drapac would hold the number of homes at 250.  Tew said he was looking at between 223 and 500 to make the project financially feasible. Other than that, Tew was vague.

“We don’t have that silver number yet,” Tew said. “(The developer’s) philosophy is that everyone in business has to have a reasonable return on their investment. “

Drapac representative Robert Fuller told the audience, “We are here tonight to tell you that, at the end of the day, we will tell you what we do intend to do.”

He did not at the end of that day.

Before adjourning the meeting, Dickerson told the developer’s team that she wanted them to get back to her with a final number of homes very soon so she could schedule another meeting with the residents and relay that information to them before the rescheduled Oct. 27 meeting. Due to severe flooding that meeting was subsequently postponed until Nov. 24.
Residents now say that after waiting for more than a month for Dickerson to schedule that second meeting between them and the developer for the purpose of learning how many homes the developer plans to build and to have input on that decision, they received an email from Dickerson dated Nov. 13 with news that set them back.

In that email Dickerson said she supported the developer’s rezoning request and would approve up to 375 homes on the 202 acres, concluding that she felt that would be in the best interest of all parties.

“Even if the developer asks for 375 homes,” resident Carol Ward told The Voice, “if he is given the rezoning, he can change the number of homes to over 500 without getting any further approval from Council.”

“After careful consideration regarding the proposed Heins Road development,” Dickerson wrote in the Nov. 13 email, “I have concluded that given the facts according to the statistical data in regards to the proposed development that it is advantageous that all the surrounding communities work with the developer to ensure that the quality of the community is protected.

“I recently met with the developer to find a comprehensible balance,” Dickerson continued. “It is my belief that if the developer decides to develop the property under its current (Rural) zoning, the community would have very little input on the quality of the development.”

Dickerson went on to say that while she was concerned about the anticipated traffic, a traffic study is required for this development and it will identify any specific traffic concerns that may arise.

After receiving Dickerson’s email in support of the rezoning and 375 homes, several residents responded, saying they were disappointed in her support of the rezoning, and that they felt misled.

“You said, repeatedly, at the Oct. 1 meeting at Doko Manor that a second community meeting would be scheduled with residents before Council voted,” Carol Ward wrote in an email to Dickerson, an email that echoed similar sentiments from the community. “That meeting did not occur. Instead, we received notice of a compromise (you) worked out with the developer less than seven business days before (County Council’s) scheduled vote.”

Dickerson responded on Nov. 16, “As I stated in my letter, the property is going to be developed with or without my vote. As for the traffic, SCDOT is the one to make that call. The traffic study depends on the discrepancy of SCDOT. As for the timing of my letter and your feeling that I misled you comes as a surprise to me. I informed you that I would not support 500 homes (I am not). I also informed you that I would keep you informed of my decision. I do not recall providing you with a definite date and time.”

The public hearing for the rezoning is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday in the County Council chambers in the County building at Hampton and Harden streets in Columbia. It will be the first of three votes Council will take on the issue and the only one of the three meetings when the public is allowed to have input.
To speak for or against the rezoning, arrive a few minutes early to sign in.

Those who want to speak for or against the rezoning must arrive a few minutes early to place their names on the sign-in sheet. An agenda and a complete information packet explaining the rezoning can be obtained by email from Suzie Haynes at [email protected] or call her at 803-576-2176.