Want to live on Lake Murray or near the scenic small town of Chapin? It soon could become more difficult.
A limit on the construction of new homes to lessen traffic jams and save the scenery soon may be in place for the popular area.
Lexington County Councilwoman Erin Long Bergeson is proposing a novel fix to slow suburbia’s march along the Amicks Ferry Road corridor south of Chapin.
At her request, Lexington County planners are looking at changes in residential density limits to reduce dramatically what is allowed in that area.
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The idea revolves around roads.
As few as four as and many as 12 homes per acre are permitted now, depending on how the adjoining road is rated for traffic volume.
The idea could be expanded to other areas in the 758-square-mile county, particularly around rapidly growing Lexington, across the lake.
People have “concerns about traffic and loss of natural areas” on a wooded peninsula with picturesque views of the 47,500-acre lake, Bergeson said.
And now Lexington-Richland 5 officials are looking at putting a new elementary school for up to 750 students on Amicks Ferry, a step that typically leads to new subdivisions nearby.
Adding a school means “congestion on that road will be tremendous,” homeowner Ronda Huffstetler said.
A reduction in what’s allowed in the area is overdue, said George Duke, a member of the town Planning Commission. “We’re already changing from rural to suburban neighborhoods,” he said.
Bergeson is interested in reducing the number of homes allowed by lowering the maximum permitted per acre along the network of roads around Amicks Ferry.
Lexington County’s development standards are tied to roads and traffic. Bergeson wants to apply them to a large area, rather than making decisions parcel by parcel.
The 15-square-mile area is home for nearly 4,700 residents, up 400 since the 2010 census, officials at the Central Midlands Council of Governments estimate.
There are nearly 1,850 homes, up from 1,700 in 2010, the analysis adds.
An average of 6,500 vehicles travel on a two-lane road today that is the main route to and from the Timberlake neighborhoods centered around a golf course and other lakeshore subdivisions, according to state traffic counts.
Traffic on Amicks Ferry funnels into the center of Chapin, adding to congestion there. State transportation officials are looking at new roads to divert traffic from that bottleneck.
Bergeson is familiar with travel hassles in the Amicks Ferry area since she lives there.
She isn’t sure yet how extensive the cutbacks on new homes will be, awaiting suggestions from county planners.
But the plan probably will eliminate hundreds since “there’s tons of acres to be developed,” she said.
Home builders are taking a wait-and-see approach until specifics are known. “There’s nothing to look at at this point,” said Earl McLeod, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina.
New neighborhoods also are rising on other thoroughfares near Chapin, such as Old Lexington Highway and Wessinger Road. Those roads will be considered for similar controls once a plan for Amicks Ferry is reached, Bergeson said.
Her strategy could be duplicated elsewhere in the steadily growing county with an estimated 285,000 residents.
The idea is “forward-looking” step that could avert headaches where road improvements aren’t likely to keep pace with the influx of newcomers, Council chairman Todd Cullum of Cayce said.
Councilman Darrell Hudson of Lexington is interested in applying the idea to to his area as well, saying it seems a way to make sure roads are able to handle more homes, stores and offices.
He declined to specify possibilities, saying different roads are under consideration.
“You want growth, but we’ve got to have some control on it,” Hudson said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
Site for new school explored
A new elementary school may rise someday south of Chapin.
Lexington-Richland 5 is looking at putting the school on Amicks Ferry Road on a 24-acre tract a mile south of town.
School officials are exploring “if the site is suitable,” Superintendent Stephen Hefner said.
“Land is getting scarce,” he said. “We are trying to position ourselves to have a location available when needed. Nothing is imminent.”
School officials say two new schools are needed around the town due to growing enrollment.