County Council casts second vote approving rezoning of golf course

COLUMBIA – On Tuesday night, Richland County Council cast a second vote in as many weeks in favor of a rezoning that could turn a former golf course bordering Crickentree neighborhood into hundreds of homes. A third vote, to be taken Sept. 17, will be the final say on the issue.

The 9-1-1 vote came after Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who represents the Crickentree area, presented a plan for developing the 183-acre golf course property that she said was a compromise reached during talks that occurred on July 2, between six Crickentree residents and E-Capital, a Texas investment firm that purchased the property out of bankruptcy last year.

But Crickentree resident Dr. Traci Cooper, who, along with the majority of Crickentree residents, opposes the rezoning, said she was shocked when she heard the plan presented by Dickerson.

“That was not a compromise reached at our meeting,” Cooper, one of the six negotiators, said following Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Dr. Traci Cooper, right, rallies her Crickentree neighbors outside Council chambers Tuesday night following a second defeat by County Council. | Barbara Ball

“That was an exploratory meeting that started out very healthy with both sides putting all their options on the table. But no conclusions were reached,” Cooper said.

“We proposed a map with a 500-foot buffer and a maximum of 140 homes. The E-Capital representative, to his credit, listened to us and said he would take the options we presented back to his planner to see if they would work and that E-Capital would get back to us. We were to have another meeting that never materialized. That’s what Ms. Dickerson should have presented to council, because we had not yet heard back from E-Capital and no consensus had been reached.”

In an email sent hours after the July 2 meeting to inform his fellow residents of the status of the evening’s negotiations, Crickentree resident Russ St. Marie wrote, “We offered a 500-foot buffer option that would have allowed E-Capital 138 homes. However, Mrs. Dickerson said she would not support a 500-foot buffer.”

In that email, St. Marie wrote that Dickerson had agreed to doubling the 150-foot buffer to 300 feet.

The next day, July 3, residents received an email from Dickerson indicating an agreement had been reached at the July 2 meeting for a 250-foot buffer and 205 homes.

“We did not hear back from E-Capital, so we sent a letter to Ms. Dickerson on July 7 reiterating our proposal but heard nothing further from either Ms. Dickerson or E-Capital until she announced her plan to Council last night,” Cooper told The Voice on Wednesday.

“The negotiations were cherry-picked and presented as an agreed-upon plan. How were the other council members to know her plan was not something we had agreed to?” Cooper said.

“Our proposal is a win-win for everyone,” Cooper told The Voice. “They still get to build and make a profit of about $24 million, and we get something that we want. I hope they [council] will look at our plan.”

Dickerson told The Voice on Wednesday that she left the July 2 meeting with the understanding that a consensus had been reached for 205 homes and a 250-foot buffer.

“I wasn’t going to make E-Capital give up any more homes since they were giving another 100 feet of buffer,” Dickerson said.

“While I don’t doubt what Ms. Dickerson is saying was actually discussed [with residents], I would like to see it in writing,” Councilman Calvin ‘Chip’ Jackson said after Dickerson made her proposal to council.

Jackson moved to table the issue until specifics could be worked out and sent back in writing to council.

“I don’t see why there is such a rush to do this, why can’t we defer it until the August meeting, until the details are worked out and if not, then it can be deferred again until the details are worked out and presented to this council,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s motion to defer failed.

Council voted 9-1-1 to approve the rezoning with Councilwoman Allison Terracio voting against and Jackson abstaining.

On June 25, the council voted 7-3 in favor of the rezoning requested by E-Capital. While the county’s planning staff recommended the requested rezoning from Traditional Recreational Open Space (TROS) to Low Density Residential (RS-LD), the Planning Commission voted twice against recommending the rezoning to Council.

The third and final vote is set for Sept. 17 at County Council Chambers.