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Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell is accusing her Republican challenger in the state Senate District 16 race Mick Mulvaney of leaving Lancaster County on the hook for a housing development he once owned.
The issue revolves around an 800-acre housing development in Indian Land called Edenmoor – one of the largest planned development districts, or PDDs, ever approved in the county. Originally called St. Katherine, Mulvaney began work on the property in 1999. The development is located off U.S. 521 between Jim Wilson Road and S.C. 5.
Mulvaney, the one-term incumbent House District 45 representative, sold the property to a company called GS Carolina in 2005. The property is now owned and managed by a company under GS Carolina called Lawson's Bend LLC.
Plans for the development included over 2,000 homes.
When the county approved the high-density housing development, a development agreement stipulated that an Emergency Medical Services station and a 68-acre, $4.2 million public park be built on the property.
Such agreements have become customary in recent years as property in the Panhandle became a hot commodity.
County Council approves development agreements when it OKs a developer's plans for high-density housing on a piece of property. Officials have promoted development agreements as a way to pay for the growth that comes with new housetops.
Just a small fraction of the total houses approved for Edenmoor have been built.
So far, 244 lots on the property have been put on tax books, and on those lots, just 14 houses have been built and put on tax rolls, county officials say.
Work on a ball field, tennis court, field house and EMS substation have also been done, but not completed.
There are now three liens on the development, totaling $2.2 million.
The liens have been filed by several contractors who did surveying and water and sewer work, including Crowder Construction Co. for $81,185, R. Joe Harris and Associates for $74,017 and Rosewood Construction Co. for $2,012,034.
Norrell argues this is a relevant issue in the race for the District 16 seat. She also takes issue with the money Mulvaney made off the sale of the development.
"It goes to his character and his ability to lead," Norrell said. "This is using the government to enrich himself and I promise never to do that. I want to see promises kept and this is an example of broken promises."
Norrell said Mulvaney is responsible for involving Lawson's Bend, LLC, promising County Council it was a solvent company and then selling the property to them.
"As a Lancasterian, this offends me. He took advantage of the county," Norrell said. "He made promises and broke those promises about the ball fields, the EMS station, the town center and the commercial development," Norrell said.
Mulvaney fires back
Mulvaney said Lancaster County residents are not responsible for the development, though he said fliers for Norrell's campaign have said they were.
"It's a flat out lie," Mulvaney said. "No taxpayer money was involved in the infrastructure bonds at Edenmoor."
The project was paid with private bonds, Mulvaney said.
"There is an implication that we promised something to the county and then flipped the property to someone else. But every single one of the agreements between us and the county is written down in an agreement," Mulvaney said. "The development agreement stays, despite the owner. And just because we sell it to someone else does not mean we renege."
Mulvaney said it is up to the county to make sure the developer follows through on its commitments.
He takes issue with mailers from Norrell's campaign, asserting that Mulvaney "left taxpayers holding the bag."
"She has been saying that I took government money and it's absolutely and positively a lie," Mulvaney said. "It is the most audacious lie I can ever imagine about me and my business."
Carter backs Mulvaney;s position
In a letter to the editor to The Lancaster News, published in the Oct. 24 edition, Lancaster County Council Chairman Rudy Carter backed Mulvaney's position.
Carter, a Democrat, said taxpayers would not be responsible for the $30 million in bonds on the Edenmoor development. The bonds were bought on the private market, meaning only those bondholders will lose out if the payments are not made, Carter said in the letter.
Carter said the county is not one of the bondholders.
Carter also agreed with Mulvaney that the development agreements remained intact after Mulvaney sold the property and the new owner was expected to honor the agreement.
"All arrangements between the county and any landowners/developers are contained in written development agreements that clearly lay out each party's obligations," Carter said in his letter. "Those obligations continue even if the land is subsequently sold from one developer to the next."
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 416-8416