Rec plan may be on the table

BLYTHEWOOD – As homeowners in Crickentree brace for a second rezoning request that could allow as many as 600 homes to be built on the 183-acre former Golf Club of South Carolina, Town Councilman Bryan Franklin announced to council last week that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for residents.

Franklin said he met with the executive director of the Richland County Recreation Commission, the board chair and two Crickentree residents – Traci Cooper and Russ St. Marie – about the residents’ desire to have the golf course property either remain green space or be used as a much needed recreation facility for youth in the Blythewood area. The latter, however, hinges on the county purchasing the property from the owner, E-Capital, a Texas investment firm.

“The discussion was very productive,” Franklin said, adding that the Richland Conservation Commission had already sent a letter to council in November 2016, in support of the resident’s desires for the property’s Traditional Residential Open Space (TROS) zoning to remain in place. That letter asked county council not to rezone the property, but to leave it as a conservation district, Franklin said.

“The Recreation Commission committed to write a similar letter to county council before the June 3 planning commission [makes a recommendation to council on the issue]. We’ll have those two support letters, many letters from Crickentree residents and any emails the mayor and council send. County council will have all that documentation before they weigh their decision of how to vote,” Franklin said.

E-Capital’s second application for a zoning change, this time for Low Density Residential (RS-LD) zoning. would allow 3.63 homes per acre. A previous request by the company for Medium Density Residential (RS-MD) zoning was withdrawn last month shortly before county council was to take its vote.

The residents have appeared at several council meetings since February, even before the issue appeared on the agenda, asking that the property retain its TROS zoning for use as a recreation facility. Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who represents the Crickentree community, was quoted in The State newspaper last month, saying, “The County is not purchasing that property.”

The newspaper also quoted Dickerson as saying that it caused ill will that Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross approached the Richland County Recreation Commission about purchasing the property before the first rezoning request was filed. The mayor skirting County Council and pitching a plan to the recreation commission for land not in the Blythewood city limits was out of bounds, Dickerson was quoted as saying.

“If he wants a park, he can put it in there,” she said of the city of Blythewood.

Ross said Dickerson was probably just frustrated.

“As we work with the recreation commission, we’ll keep the county council informed so they don’t feel like we’re running an end-around as I believe the state paper quoted,” Franklin said. “All we’re doing is when you have a recreation desire in the community, it’s very logical that you go to the recreation commission first, not directly to the Richland County Council,” he said.

“We desperately need sports fields out here,” Franklin said. “In Blythewood, if your children play soccer, you have to go all the way to Polo Road to play. So you get home from work at 5:30 and have to pick the kids up and drive from here to Polo in all that traffic. It’s difficult to make it on time.”

“Hopefully the county will agree to purchase it,” Franklin said.

“This is what a local government getting involved in an area outside the town should do – promote what is best for the town,” Ross said. “It does affect all of us in this area.”