ECapital plans 249 homes on Crickentree course

Approximately 200 people packed Doko Manor in Blythewood to hear ECapital’s plan to develop the golf course at Crickentree. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – Representatives of Texas investment firm ECapital unveiled a revised proposal for a residential development proposed on the former Golf Course of South Carolina property in the Crickentree neighborhood last week at a meeting held at Doko Manor. More than 200 residents of Crickentree and other area golf course communities attended.

After proposing 480 homes on the property in August, ECapital’s Ryan Buckman said Thursday night that the company had dropped the number of homes to 249 homes in response to residents’ pleas for lower density in August.

Another concession, according to Shaun Tooley, an engineer representing the land design firm that produced the plan, is a 150-foot natural buffer of trees and shrubs that would shield the existing neighborhood homes from the new development. That buffer, Tooley said, would be deeded to the new development’s homeowner’s association who would also be responsible for maintaining it.

The revised development consists of homes clustered together on minimum 8,500-square-foot lots, leaving 60 percent of the property in green space, Tooley said. He said the homes would range from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet in size and be priced at $350K to $425K.

Much of the 183 acre golf course property borders the Crickentree subdivision which is accessed off Kelly Mill Road.

One side of the golf course is the back yard to many of the 145 upscale Crickentree homes that boast large lots, some up to two acres in size.

ECapital bought the mortgage on the golf course for $1 million and initiated foreclosure last July. The mortgage was foreclosed in August. Now ECapital has moved into the development phase.

To transition from a golf course to a residential property requires rezoning from the current TROS (Traditional Recreation Open Space) zoning classification to a residential zoning classification.

That rezoning effort is where the residents feel they have a foothold to stop the development of hundreds of homes on small lots in their backyards.

The TROS zoning classification dates back to 2007 when the Richland County Planning Commission added it to the Richland County land use plan specifically to protect golf course communities throughout the county from becoming the victims of rampant residential development.

The question from residents of these golf course communities such as Crickentree, is, now, will County Council vote to change the zoning to protect ECapital’s investment and satisfy the developer, or keep the current zoning in place to protect the Crickentree property owners’ investments which the TROS was designed to do.

After presenting slides of the proposed development, residents expressed their concerns about the plan. Jerry Rega, a resident of nearby LongCreek Plantation which has experienced similar issues, said the Crickentree residents will experience loss of property values, traffic congestion and school congestion. He also questioned how storm water drainage would be mamaged since the golf course, where the new homes would be built, now provides that drainage.

“But you guys don’t want to listen,” Rega said to thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. “Every time one of these big companies has a problem, Council has a way of bailing them out. What about bailing out the people in this room? We need to put a moratorium on new construction until Richland County figures out what the heck is going on,” Rega said.

Other residents at the meeting said the proposed development won’t benefit the county financially because the developer is based in Texas. “These [ECapital] people are going to go back to Dallas with $3-4 million and we’re going to lose $3-4 million in our property values,” Crickentree resident Larry Ellis said. “We need some support,” he told Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson who represents a portion of 29016 and called the meeting.

“There’s no value in rezoning for anyone in this room except the people up front,” Rega added.

ECapital is expected to submit a proposal to the Richland County Planning Commission to rezone the property in the next several weeks.


The Mayor’s Option:

Mayor J. Michael Ross, center, talks with residents who are protesting the development of the golf courses protected by TROS zoning.

Although Crickentree is not within Blythewood’s city limits, Mayor Mike Ross told the crowd that traffic and infrastructure is also the town’s biggest concern. And he said that while the town limits do not extend to Crickentree, he said Crickentree as part of the 29016 family.

 

“We don’t want any more people coming down Langford Road trying to get to I-77,” he said.

Ross proposed an alternative plan to convert the golf course space into a county park with soccer fields, walking paths, bike trails and other amenities. He said preliminary talks are underway with the Richland County Recreation Commission to buy the property.

Ross then read a statement from Town Councilman Bryan Franklin.

“We have an option we would like you to consider. We have massive development in this area,” Ross said, listing a number of developments in the works or planned. “We will have 6,000 new homes in the next 10 years. If there is one child per home, we’ll have a massive youth population that needs a place for outdoor activities. We don’t have the real estate in the town to provide those opportunities.

“The Crickentree residents have somewhat been betrayed – they purchased homes with the intent of living in a golf course community. The golf course business failed and needs to offload real estate to close the books under bankruptcy to allow this builder to build 250 – 300 homes.

“These homes will create more traffic, more schools, but no recreation area.

“An excellent, common sense compromise would be for the county to purchase this [golf course] for pennies on the dollar, designated as a county recreation center/park and create soccer, Lacrosse and baseball fields as well as senior citizen facilities, walking and biking trails. This would not even require rezoning and would benefit the community.

“It would pay for itself in 20 years with revenues from travel ball and state and regional sports tournaments.

“Let’s not let this jewel in the rough go. Save this open space and help our kids.

“Maybe the Town of Blythewood doesn’t have a horse in this race, but the people will be doomed by traffic. This is something we want to talk to Richland County about.”