Richland County gives final approval to homes being built on golf course

After months of wrangling between developers and residents, a golf course in northeast Richland County will be re-developed into a new housing development — with some concessions to neighbors who live nearby.

On Tuesday, Richland County Council gave final approval to a plan to develop the former Golf Club of South Carolina adjacent to the Crickentree neighborhood near Lake Carolina.

After discussions between Crickentree residents and E-Capital, the firm that owns the golf course, some new restrictions were added to what developers can build on the 183-acre property.

The developers have committed to a 250-foot buffer between homes on the former golf course and the neighborhood of about 140 residents, up from the 150 feet E-Capital pitched to the county zoning commission back in June. Because of the concession, developers also dropped the number of homes that could be built on the property to less than 200.

“This takes the form of a conservation easement,” said Robert Fuller, attorney for the Texas-based firm. “Even if I sell the property to you, you can’t intrude on the buffer.”

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But on Tuesday, some members of the county council were reluctant to approve the rezoning, because no application for an easement had yet been filed.

That reflects the tensions between developers and Crickentree residents, who had purchased homes adjacent to a golf course previously zoned for open space uses. They worried replacing links and sand traps with new homes would put a dent in their property values and their quality of life.

Some had pushed for a 500-foot setback between the neighborhood and the development. Others, like Blythewood Mayor Mike Ross, had hoped to see the area preserved as a public park.

“It seemed to be a good fit,” said Ross, who even says he had conversations with the county recreation commission about the idea. “I think we missed the boat.”

The Crickentree community isn’t in the town limits of Blythewood, but County Councilman Chip Jackson says the addition of more homes will only add to congestion on the area’s roadways.

“I live in the northeast community, and I drive twice a day,” Jackson said, “and the length of time on the road has increased, not just because of the development but the over-development (of the area).”

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. Some Crickentree residents worry the same fate may await those courses if they’re ultimately sold.

The zoning proposal was ultimately approved 6-3, with Jackson, Jim Manning and Allison Terracio voting against approval.

Housing lots in the development will be required to be at least 12,000 square feet, the county’s lowest density requirement.

Plans for the golf course drew enough opposition from neighbors that 150 people came out to oppose a proposal for 450 new homes in April, and again in May when the planning commission turned down a proposal for more than 200 homes.

“My estimation is that there’s now a feeling from the majority in the neighborhood that this will be all right,” said Fuller, the attorney. “There are some who have a particular interest who might not be satisfied, but overall, I think there’s some level of comfort.”

But others wish residents’ hopes to preserve the area as green space had been given more weight.

“When you have over 100 people asking for something, I would think that would count for more than an investment group out of Texas,” Ross said.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.