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What should we be doing?

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J.R. Wilt

A few weeks ago, The Lancaster News ran an interesting series asking what people would like to see in the way of changes to the county, particularly in the Indian Land area. The discussion quickly turned to agreement that a better class of retail establishments would be desirable, with the debate asking questions like Target, Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue? Olive Garden, Outback or a prominent chef’s own gourmet restaurant? Sentiment from the report seemed to be more or less “all of the above.”

It seems fair to ask why this kind of growth is not happening. There are several developers who have dedicated space to what might be called high-end retail, but are having difficulty getting high-end retailers to come to Indian Land and Lancaster County. The retailers simply do not see enough of a customer base in Indian Land and Lancaster County to support them.

The problem is not just rooftops, but the kind of upscale rooftops that buy at upscale locations. Indian Land and Lancaster County people may shop at Sak’s Fifth Avenue and look at menus in gourmet restaurants, but they buy at Walmart and eat at McDonald’s and Bojangle’s. Upscale retailers cannot live off that.

This situation developed over 10 years of indiscriminate, unplanned residential development without any regard for the required infrastructure development or any clear understanding as to what kind of community was being built.

Builders were allowed to build what they wanted where they wanted, and built what they thought would sell quickly and easily. These were largely low- to medium-priced homes, which do not generate enough tax revenue to cover the ongoing costs of governmental services.

There is no place, nor is there any zoning anywhere in Lancaster County to build luxury homes in the $1 million and up price category. These homes and the people who will buy and live in them are what is required to bring in high-end retailers.

What to do? First, plan and build the Dave Lyle Extension, reserving for upscale commercial use an area about a mile wide with the four-lane divided, but not limited-access highway running down the middle of it. This will be about four miles long from the intersection of Waxhaw Road (S.C. 75 East) to the point where the York County portion of Dave Lyle Boulevard ends on the other side of the river.

This is all new and can be set up the way U.S. 521 should have been set up 10 years ago, with heavy screening buffers, development moved up the side roads, a limited number of traffic lights, parallel roads connecting developments, etc.

This approach should also be applied along Waxhaw Road from the intersection with U.S. 521 to the Union County, N.C., line.

The county will need to invest some money into developing the plans and zoning associated with this project, but the construction could be paid for by developers with the exception of the bridge over the river.

Bridge financing is difficult right now because it looks like a project from a dynamic part of York  County to nowhere – a whining, complaining, disorganized Lancaster County without any vision beyond low- to medium-end, infrastructure-hungry, long-term, budget-busting residential development.

It may take a few years to build the Dave Lyle Extension, but when it is done, the higher-end retail will be only four or five miles away in Rock Hill, and expansion of that development will move into Lancaster County from the west because it will be less expensive to build here than in Rock Hill and we will have a very attractive development plan in place. 

Second, terminate the proposed 521/160 corridor overlay district at the intersection of Van Wyck Road and U.S. 521 rather than at the Waxhaw Road intersection.

Reserve the area south of the intersection of U.S. 521 and Van Wyck Road and north of Shiloh Unity Road for truly high-end residential development. Developments of this type do not need sewer; septic tanks work fine. Create the zoning that is required to support this vision – 1-acre and 5-acre minimum lot sizes – close to the city, but in the country with easy access to Interstate 77, U.S. 521, S.C. 5 and S.C. 9. U.S. 521 south of the Van Wyck Road intersection should remain a 55-mph highway with very wide buffers on both sides of the road.

Whatever commercial development is built along U.S. 521 should not interfere with the high-end residential use, be up existing side roads and heavily screened from the main road.

The area around Andrew Jackson State Park must be completely protected from development.

This approach has obvious benefits for the county in that a major east-west highway with a connection to I-77 will be created and it provides for the kind of upscale shopping experience that the people of Indian Land desire.

It is also consistent with the kind of development already in place in Van Wyck and provides a realistic path toward a desirable kind of residential development not allowed in the county at all now.

Main roads are protected from an excessive number of traffic lights and their appearance is protected by wide buffers, yet they can continue to serve as carriers of commuter traffic. Development can occur as appropriate for each area of the county, but off the main road.

 

J.R. Wilt is a Van Wyck resident.