Council divided on new development on the Catawba

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By Jenny Hartley

A lack of growth in western Lancaster County versus a greater demand for services and a burden on schools – those issues divided County Council on a vote for a new residential development on the Catawba River.

Council voted 4-3 in favor of final reading of a rezoning ordinance, giving Texas-based LGI Land the go-ahead to develop Riverchase Estates, a gated community on Riverside Road.

Riverchase Estates will contain 1,250 to 1,939 homes on about 2,000 acres along the Catawba.

LGI Land plans to spend $7 million on amenities for the neighborhood, including a clubhouse with a fitness center, a resort-style pool, walking trails and tennis and basketball courts. It has pledged to donate 5 acres and $1.2 million toward the construction of a new fire station.

Council members aren’t the only ones with concerns about the project. Several residents addressed council about the proposal Monday night.

Bill Brinkman, who lives nearby on Porter Ranch Road, noted that Bowater is right across the river from Riverchase Estates. He wondered how residents would react to the “obnoxious odors,” bright lights, noise and ground vibrations generated by the paper plant.

He also asked why the developer was already advertising in The Charlotte Observer over the weekend, since the project had not been given final approval.

Indian Land resident Alan Patterson asked council to consider the condition of Riverside Road, and John Baker questioned who would be responsible for maintaining the roads within the development.

Some council members worried about septic systems serving many homes on the river, since the area does not have public sewer service, and the burden the



development would put on the county’s schools, namely Erwin Elementary, A.R. Rucker Middle and Lancaster High, said Councilman Bryan Vaughn.

Vaughn was also concerned about fire and police protection in the area.

“Those will be things you’ll deal with in the future,” said Vaughn, who will come off council at the end of the year.

LGI Land President Eric Lipar said Bowater’s location will be pointed out to potential buyers.

“Bowater will not be a negative for us,” Lipar said. The company’s acquisitions officials investigated the area before advising LGI to buy the property, he said.

Vaughn also questioned the advertising in the newspaper.

Lipar said the company was “testing the market.” The company has hired locals to staff the office on U.S. 521 in Indian Land and will celebrate its grand opening on May 10.

Appearing frustrated, Councilman Larry Honeycutt said there would be no debate about the project if it were locating in Indian Land.

“We need something in this part of the county,” Honeycutt said. “It’s time we had some growth down here.”

“This might as well be an Indian Land project,” Vaughn responded. “This is being marketed to south Charlotte.”

Councilman Wayne Kersey said he “couldn’t fathom” a commercial development, such as a McDonald’s or Olive Garden, locating in the area if it required septic tanks.

“We should insist on sewer,” Kersey said. “It really amazes me that we could do this.”

Council voted 4-3, with Councilmen Jack Estridge, Vaughn and Kersey voting against it.

When it came to final reading of the development agreement, the vote was 4-2, with Kersey and Estridge voting against it. Vaughn didn’t vote on the development agreement, saying that he wasn’t paying attention when the vote came up.

“I tuned them out,” he said.

 Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com