Push to build houses on Northeast Richland golf course dealt blow by county board

Opponents of new houses being built on a Northeast Richland golf course got a boost Monday when the Richland County Planning Commission declined to recommend approval to rezone the area for new development.

The 6-2 decision came after dozens of residents from the Crickentree community spoke out Monday against plans to rezone the former Golf Club of South Carolina so it can be turned into a new subdivision.

Richland County Council will have the final say. The council is set to vote on whether to accept the commissioners’ recommendation at its June 25 meeting.

County planning staffers had recommended the commission approve the proposal, partly because E-Capital’s plans match residential developments — like Crickentree — that have already sprung up in the area.

But neighbors worry that the proposal will hurt their property values and quality of life. Course owners E-Capital of Texas want more than 200 homes on the 183-acre property, but even the low-density zoning the developer sought would allow for up to 600 homes to be built on the property near Blythewood.

E-Capital attorney Robert Fuller said the developer would voluntarily restrict any new construction out of consideration for neighbors’ sensibilities.

“This includes a 150-foot buffer, not required by any zoning provisio,” Fuller said. Keeping the property in its current recreation-based zoning would leave the owner in “an impossible economic prospect over the long term,” Fuller said.

But residents, many of them wearing matching red shirts, asked the commission not to allow the change to go forward. Tracy Young Cooper, an educator, told commissioners Monday she worries about the impact a new housing development would have on the school system.

“You cannot build schools as fast as you can build homes,” she said.

Val Hutchinson, who helped write the recreation-based zoning category that covers the former golf club and other golf courses in Richland County, said maintaining open green space is good for the county overall.

“We’ve seen severe flooding,” Hutchinson said Monday. “We need more, not less, buffer zones that absorb the runoff from rainfall.”

In April, 150 residents turned up for a hearing on a prior proposal to build an even higher-density development on the old golf club, before developers put that plan on hold amidst push back from locals.

Some Crickentree residents want to see the former golf course maintained as public recreation space, although County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who represents the area, has ruled out the possibility of Richland County creating a park.

David Tuttle, one of two commissioners to recommend the change, said the decision leaves the owners without many options to use the land.

“I don’t think a golf course at Crickentree is viable. Have to give property owners a chance to do what they think is best to do it.” He also told residents that before their homes were built in Crickentree, a developer had to ask that their land be rezoned.

But commissioner Jason Branham said the zoning language shows the designation of the former golf club is meant to conserve open space, provide communities with outdoor activities and create buffer areas around the neighboring residential properties.

“The wording for this district is unusually strong,” Branham said. “I’m keeping that in mind.”

The same zoning classification also covers four other golf courses in Northeast Richland — The Members Club at Woodcreek & Wildewood, The Windemere Club, LongCreek Plantation and Spring Valley Country Club.