'County at fault for park delay'

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By Jenny Hartley

INDIAN LAND - You may not see a lot of heavy equipment near the U.S. 521 entrance of Edenmoor, but work continues at the huge residential community, and developers say an EMS station and community park will be complete by August.

The first phase of homebuilding at Edenmoor continues. Sean Calloway, development manager for GS Carolina, the company developing Edenmoor, said 17 lots are under contract. When Phase 1 is finished, there will be 399 homes at Edenmoor, which will eventually have 2,000 homes.

A second phase of development has begun, with the construction of the road that will lead to the $4.2 million, 68-acre community park. The park will be turned over to Lancaster County Parks and Recreation when it's finished.

Calloway said this second phase is graded up to the park site.

"No earth work remains at the entrance on U.S. 521," Calloway said. "This is why you do not see any equipment at the 521 frontage."

Work begins on park

Work on the much-anticipated park has begun, with fine grading 80 percent complete and park storm drainage under construction.

The company will be sodding all playing fields at the park with Bermuda grass.

GS Carolina officials say the county is to blame for delaying the permitting process for Phase 2, thus delaying the park's completion.

In a letter to county officials dated Feb. 18, Calloway wrote that the company submitted plans for Phase 2 to the county planning department on Jan. 4, 2007. The company did not receive comments on these plans from the planning department until September.

Plan revisions were made, and resubmitted to the planning department on Oct. 15, and the Phase 2 plans were approved on Jan. 8, 2008.

"We believe a 12-month time frame to review and approve plans does not constitute a cooperative effort on behalf of the county for project permitting," Calloway wrote. "Several inquiries were made by the project engineers as to the status of the plan approval, each time highlighting the potential delays with the parkway (leading to the park) and county park delivery."

Calloway wrote that the company took a risk by beginning construction of a bridge and portions of the parkway based on verbal approvals from the planning department, at a cost of more than $2 million.

Calloway said last week that the drought also delayed construction of the park.

"The drought did provide some minor grading delays," he said. "The soil was so dry last year that watering was required to achieve required compaction and to control the dust."

Karres defends planning department

Lancaster County Planning Director Chris Karres said the planning department was also waiting on other county departments, like public works, building and zoning and Emergency Management, to give their approval on plans for Edenmoor.

It's the responsibility of the planning department to coordinate those approvals and return them to the developer.

When the company was cited by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for silt-fence problems, the state agency asked the county planning department to withhold permits in July and August 2007 until the problem was resolved, Karres said.

The planning department also had to wait while the company decided to issue a bond for the parkway improvements. The company had to either put in the infrastructure or put up a bond for the work, or it would not get plat approval for the work to begin. A developer needs plat approval in order to take out building permits. A bond ensures that the county will not get stuck funding infrastructure if there is a problem with the project.

"I think it's an unfair criticism of us," Karres said of Calloway's letter. "The planning department is the point person, but it has to wait on other departments for other approvals. It's not a cut-and-dried process as far as getting everything in order to approve the plat."

Karres said the planning department approved the plat for the park in August.

He said planner Elaine Boone gave company officials verbal approval in March to move forward without the plat being approved yet.

Indian Land needs fields

Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Director Frank Overcash said children in the Panhandle should be playing on fields at Edenmoor in the fall.

"We've really had to scramble for space this spring," Overcash said. "But with any project, especially with the magnitude of this project, you're going to expect some things (delays). It is what it is. We've been involved in large projects before a lot of things have to come together."

Overcash said the department will begin looking for a full-time program director for the Indian Land area in late April.

That's something Parks and Recreation coach Kevin Sexton says Indian Land is in dire need of, in addition to more fields.

Parks and Recreation players have to share two fields, behind the Indian Land Recreation Center on U.S. 521, with Indian Land High School sports teams.

Soccer teams in the 7-8-year-old division have 18 players each, although the optimum number is 13 to guarantee ample playing time for each player.

About eight kids were turned down because there aren't enough teams due to the space issue.

"There are eight teams on the fields every night," Sexton said. "We're struggling for field time and practice time. Our county government is just so slow in keeping up with the growth. I feel like our county has let us down repeatedly in this whole deal."

Contact Jenny Hartley

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