Friday, July 11, 2014
The 38,000-acre East Edisto development is so complex that MeadWestvaco will be funding three new positions in the county planning office to review its plans.
Those three new county employees, whose salary and benefits will be covered by MWV Community Development and Land Management, will be solely tasked with reviewing plans for development in East Edisto.
East Edisto is a vast, 50-year plan to develop 72,000 acres across two counties into mixed-use communities and industrial areas. Public facilities are planned as part of the development, and MWV is donating the funds to build two elementary schools.
Most of the land is to remain rural, with deed restrictions prohibiting development.
The county and MWV took a couple of years negotiating the details of a development ordinance, which was approved in December 2012.
Now, as MWV moves toward actual construction — it expects to break ground on Summers Corner later this summer — each phase of the development must be reviewed to ensure it adheres to the development ordinance standards.
County Administrator Jason Ward said MWV isn’t getting a rubber stamp for its plans. Instead, it’s paying for expedited review, and it needs specialists because every aspect of its development ordinance is different than the county’s.
Unlike most developers who build subdivisions based on the county’s rules on streets, building setbacks from the road, impermeable surface area, buffering and every other aspect of development, MWV has its own rules, spelled out in the development ordinance.
It’s almost as if East Edisto were an independent town with its own rules.
However, it is part of the county and needs county approval before building. Because county planning employees are versed in the county’s rules, the three new employees will specialize in MWV’s rules.
Ward said MWV will need to get approval from more than just the planning staff. Their plans will need to go through the fire marshal and water and sewer department for approval, and those departments are staffed by county workers.
Further, the MWV specialists within the county planning department will report their recommendations to Planning and Zoning Manager Alec Brebner, who will oversee the work, Ward said.
Until those three new employees are hired, the county will contract with SafeBuilt to provide plan review.
County Council approved the contract with SafeBuilt at its meeting Monday, with Councilman Larry Hargett voting against it.
Hargett said the county should have gone to the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments, whom the county already pays for services, instead of a private firm.
The county will pay SafeBuilt on an hourly, as-needed basis.