East Edisto meets with public approval

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kenneth Seeger, senior vice president and president, community development and land management, MeadWestvaco, shows how designers vary setbacks, place garages in the rear of properties with alley access and place larger homes on main thoroughfares and smaller homes on side streets to create visual interest and a sense of community. This conceptual model is for a neighborhood on the east side of I-26 planned for 2014. Neighborhoods in East Edisto will have architecture more reminiscent of rural life than city life, but will follow the same design principles to encourage walkability.


Bit by bit, meeting by meeting, the plans for East Edisto have been pulled apart and put back together and are now approaching finality.
Dorchester County Council gave second reading Monday to the development agreement with MeadWestvaco that will govern how the massive tract of land is developed.
Several people spoke in favor of the plan, which covers 72,000 acres across two counties. Seventy-five percent of the land will remain rural, with deed restrictions into perpetuity, and the earliest development will occur in Dorchester County, near the existing Legend Oaks subdivision.
The county will hold another public hearing at its Dec. 3 meeting in St. George.
MeadWestvaco has been planning the development for years. It held a series of community meetings and came back with a master plan based on the input in 2009.
Then started the behind the scenes work of crafting the legal agreement that will serve as the foundation for the vision.
In an interview Friday, Kenneth Seeger, vice president and president of community development and land management at MWV, said a few things have changed since the original.
People who attended the meetings back then might remember the proposed map included a series of small, rural communities dotting the landscape in a north-to-south line.
Those communities wont happen, Seeger said, because the market cant support them and it would cost too much to extend infrastructure.
However, the plan for Summers Corner, near Summerville, remains. The 7,000 acres near 17-A will be the initial focus.
The idea is a community where people can work, live and play. Theres already an industrial park on the opposite side of 17-A, which currently houses MWVs Arborgen, and there are plans for a 1,000-acre business campus adjacent to that.
The residential areas would include 7,500 homes and a mix of retail and service businesses.
Its compact. Its not littered all over the countryside, Seeger said.
MWV will donate seven school sites, as well as the money to actually build two elementary schools.
Thats unheard of. I dont know of any private developer in South Carolina thats ever done that, Seeger said.
The company will also donate up to four sites for EMS and fire stations and will help the people of Clubhouse with a recreation center.
It also includes plans for walking and biking as alternative modes of transportation, and in fact the road from Summers Corner to Clubhouse already has bike lanes.
Building out this community will take 15 to 20 years, depending on the market.
At the public hearing, Dekle Griffith, who lives in Legend Oaks, said MWVs planning process has been thoughtful and inclusive.
Its just the kind of approach we need for that area, he said.
An illustration of just how much thought goes into the planning process is across I-26 at MWVs offices.
There, staff have constructed a town of tiny model homes and community centers so they can experiment with different design principles and see how they play out.
The model is for a development on yet another tract of land MWV owns and is developing, between the interstate and Cane Bay.
And while the style is a little different more reminiscent of downtown Charleston architecture the thought process is much the same.
The planners play with varying the setbacks of homes ever so slightly, so the houses dont line up like barracks. Garages are accessible via alleys, so that garage doors arent the dominant image from the street.
There are focal points at the ends of streets, and paths for biking and walking.
Seeger said the company will work with builders to come up with unique home plans, rather than re-using plans already built in the Lowcountry.
And while the ideas behind the developments are similar to those used at IOn or on Daniel Island, the prices will be Summerville prices, meant for average families to enjoy.
At the public hearing, William Baughman said hes lived and worked in Dorchester County for more than 50 years.
Ive watched us expand with unchecked, unplanned and frequently unwise development, he said.
Now the county has the opportunity to work with a single landowner to plan growth in compliance with the comprehensive master plan and maintain the rural character of much of the land, he said.
Mike Soyka said in his 12 years living here, its become obvious the area is always trying to catch up to growth.
For a change we appear to be breaking ahead of the curve, he said.
He hoped East Edisto would be a model for other developments.

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