Legend Oaks raises concerns about proposed development

  • Monday, July 7, 2014

A developer’s plan to create an idyllic community in which children walk to a nearby elementary school backfired Monday when residents of a neighboring subdivision objected.

Objection #1: Children nowadays don’t actually walk to school.

“It’s wonderful to say ‘kids are going to walk, ride their bikes;’ in reality, it doesn’t happen,” said Janette Chipas.

Chipas lives in Legend Oaks on S.C. 61. She and several neighbors appeared at a Dorchester County Council planning committee meeting to voice concerns about a proposed planned development for almost 52 acres adjacent to Legend Oaks.

Ultimately those concerns led council to postpone approving the development to give all parties a chance to work out their differences.

It wasn’t just the concerns about the path that gave council pause, though.

“Unfortunately for the builder, I live in a neighborhood they built,” said Councilman David Chinnis.

A neighborhood, he said, “surrounded by racetracks” – otherwise known as long, straight roads that tempt drivers to speed dangerously through residential areas.

Chinnis also agreed with Legend Oaks residents that children wouldn’t likely walk all the way through two neighborhoods to school.

The developer, The Ryland Group, wanted to create a path that would allow residents of the new neighborhood to access Legend Oaks, and from there walk through the neighborhood and onto an existing path to Beech Hill Elementary School.

The county planning staff appeared to like the idea; presumably it would mean more children walking to school and fewer cars pulling out onto S.C. 61 and then back into the school property.

Residents, though, said there’s already a problem with parents driving their children to the neighborhood end of the existing path instead of making their children walk all the way. The neighborhood isn’t set up to handle that crush of traffic at one time, and drivers pull into private driveways and back up over the crosswalk to turn around, they said.

Chris Donato, who appeared to speak for the developer, said the path isn’t a make or break issue for Ryland and it could revisit that part of the plan.

As a whole, the plan calls for plenty of open space, amenities including trails, a picnic shelter, a dog run and an open-air pavilion, and the preservation of the 50-to 70-inch diameter live oaks that dot the property.

Neighbors, though fear development could create drainage problems in Legend Oaks.

Resident Joe Alford said the homes adjacent to the proposed development sit three to four feet lower than the undeveloped land.

The land behind his home already floods when there are heavy rains, he said, and he worries about what would happen once the land is developed.

Neighbor Theresa Bilsback agreed. There are already lakes back there when it rains, she said.

In fact, when she saw surveyors on the property, she was at first delighted because she thought they were there to fix the drainage problems.

Donato said Ryland will be required to contain its water on site and not allow water to go onto neighbors’ property.

Councilwoman Carroll Duncan said she was troubled to see only one entrance planned from S.C. 61 into the subdivision, and even more troubled that it was a long, straight road.

People will end up speeding down it, she said, citing problems other neighborhoods are dealing with.

Donato said the developer would be willing to look at traffic calming measures, including adjusting lot sizes to create curves in the road.

Some residents raised concerns about protecting the grand trees on the property.

The county can’t – and he wouldn’t – stop a property owner from developing its property, Chinnis said.

But he promised to look over the developer’s shoulder to ensure it abides by the county tree ordinance to protect the grand trees on the property.

“I’ll come out there and chain myself to the trees with you if we need to,” he told Legend Oaks residents.

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