Amid protest by angry residents, plan to replace golf course with houses put on hold

The owner of the former Golf Club of South Carolina has put on hold plans to build hundreds of homes as angry residents of the adjoining Crickentree development protest the project.

About 150 of the residents wearing red shirts showed up at a Richland County zoning public hearing Tuesday night, only to learn the owner’s request to rezone the land for houses had been pulled.

Neither an attorney for the owners, Texas-based E-Capital, nor the protestors spoke Tuesday night after the rezoning request was pulled. According to Richland County zoning procedures, the request can be refiled at any time.

“They are kicking the can down the road,” Crickentree resident Russell Ste.Marie said. “They are going to wait until fewer and fewer show up and then they will refile it.”

E-Capital has floated a plan to build 450 homes on the 183-acre former course. Crickentree residents claim rezoning the property from a recreation-based category to medium density residential would lower their property values and further clog roads in the sprawling northeast Richland County suburbs.

The possible rezoning of the course has special significance because the recreation-based zoning category applies only to Crickentree and four other golf courses in the county: The Members Club at Woodcreek & Wildewood, The Windemere Club, LongCreek Plantation and Spring Valley Country Club.

If the County Council votes to lift the special zoning, it would set a precedent for those other courses, especially The Members Club at Woodcreek & Wildewood, which is for sale.

Crickentree closed in July when E-Capital, the national investment firm that holds its loan, announced to neighbors in an email that the course had gone bankrupt and foreclosure proceedings had begun. In a public meeting with residents, an attorney for E-Capital told neighbors the intent was to subdivide the golf course into small lots and build 450 homes.

However, E-Capital’s request for medium density zoning would allow more than 900, according to the county zoning department.

The company could also apply for different residential categories that would allow as many 1,600 homes or as few as as 240.

E-Capital’s attorney, Robert Fuller, said he asked that the request be pulled late last week.

“I felt it was not in our best interest to carry this forward (Tuesday) night, so we pulled it,” he said. “We felt the timing wasn’t right. We have not determined what the going-forward process might be.”

Crickentree residents are backing a plan pitched by Blythewood Mayor Mike Ross that the county or private donors purchase the property and turn it into much-needed recreational space — hiking and biking trails, even equestrian trails, in additional to playing fields.

Ross noted that in fast-growing area recreational opportunities are at a premium, and getting kids to and from after-school activities in other areas is adding to the rush-hour traffic.

However, the course is not in Blythewood, and County Council member Joyce Dickerson, who represents the area, has said she would not support the county buying the land.

Ste.Marie said the residents will continue to be vigilant.

“We won this round but the fight goes on,” he said.

Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.