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Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of property, including a prime development corridor in Cayce, will be sold to Dominion Energy as part of the Virginia energy giant’s plan to acquire SCANA.
The real estate issue has flown under the radar since Dominion announced plans Jan. 3 to buy the smaller, troubled utility. But what will become of that real estate, estimated to be about 40,000 acres statewide, is raising concerns as S.C. leaders scrutinize the proposed Dominion-SCANA deal.
In Lexington County, leaders are nervous that land along Cayce’s 12th Street, the connector that links the heart of Cayce to Interstate 77 near the Congaree River, won’t be developed as they had anticipated. They also worry that Dominion could sell off SCANA’s Cayce corporate headquarters building and campus, a source of local pride and a cornerstone of future development.
“This isn’t something to be taken lightly,’’ state Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, told fellow lawmakers this week.
Along Cayce’s 12th Street, SCANA owns about 1,800 acres on more than three dozen tracts, much of it undeveloped, according to real estate records that Setzler released this week. Those holdings include four major developed properties worth more than $330 million, including the company’s $163.9 million headquarters building and campus.
In an interview with The State newspaper, Setzler said he is concerned Dominion could “unload’’ the land if its proposed acquisition of SCANA goes through.
“Whoever buys this is going to control it,’’ Setzler said. “That is a major economic corridor for the future of our area.’’
But SCANA’s land holdings go far beyond Cayce.
Thousands of acres statewide
Statewide, the company owns 40,000 acres from coastal Charleston and Berkeley to Richland and Fairfield in the state’s midsection.
Much of the land is “associated with our current and former electric generating plant sites,’’ SCANA spokeswoman Ginny Jones said in an email.
The property is valuable. SCANA pays about $200 million in property taxes statewide, the company reported this past week.
Jones declined to provide details of specific landholdings, but said SCANA has 280 acres for sale in what’s known as Lexington County’s Otarre corridor. That area is the 12th Street area of Cayce.
Chet Wade, a spokesman for Dominion, said all of SCANA’s holdings would be part of the proposed sale to Dominion, if approved by regulators. But Wade said it is too early to say what would become of the property.
Wade said his Virginia-based utility would be willing to talk with S.C. leaders about the land’s future “and how we can work together.’’ Dominion’s land in Virginia is held for future use for power production or other energy purposes, he said.
Todd Cullum, who represents Cayce on Lexington County Council, said local leaders have an idea of how SCANA’s land would be used to develop the 12th Street corridor, but its sale to Dominion raises uncertainty.
The future of the Cayce land “is not a pebble in the pond,’’ Cullum said. “I have great concerns.
“I know what SCANA’s long-range plan was, and they’ve been very deliberate in their actions. They’ve been very selective in how they want to develop the property in and around their headquarters.’’
SCANA move fueled area
Concerns about the land sale are surfacing as other questions arise about the proposed Dominion-SCANA deal.
Dominion, one of the nation’s largest energy companies, has proposed buying SCANA in a $14.6 billion deal that would include $1,000 rebates to customers for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. Numerous regulatory and shareholder approvals are needed that could take nine months or more.
Since SCANA left its offices in downtown Columbia for a new corporate campus in Cayce about a decade ago, it has spurred development along 12th Street, local officials say. Among those projects have been a Lexington Medical Center branch, a high-end apartment complex, a tennis center and a Courtyard Marriott hotel, Cayce City Manager Rebecca Vance said.
Today, the 12th Street corridor is a mixture of recently developed property and virgin land.
An industrial park also is in the area. At the time of SCANA’s move from Columbia, utility officials said they wanted a mix of stores, restaurants and homes to surround their headquarters.
“Our vision would include a small village-type area featuring restaurants and other retail facilities as well as some medical and residential development,” utility spokesman Eric Boomhower told The State newspaper in 2009.
‘I would be concerned’
Today, major undeveloped tracts include property at the intersection of I-77 and 12th Street, across the highway from Cayce. Future development plans include a possible factory outlet center along 12th Street and I-77, near the company’s headquarters on the Cayce side of the highway.
SCANA has certain development standards for property along 12th Street that have been used to guide growth, Vance said. But the Dominion sale could change that, she said.
“I would be concerned that they would not be as interested in the development business as SCANA was,’’ Vance said, adding she and Cayce Mayor Elise Partin met recently with Dominion officials.
Vance said the biggest concern is whether SCANA’s headquarters building is sold by Dominion. If Dominion continues to use the building for its S.C. operations, that would better ensure quality development occurs in the 12th Street corridor, she said.