Glen Wilkes knew immediately he wanted to be part of the community as soon as he saw it.

The master plan and the natural landscape of The Ponds instantly drew the Summerville resident to buy a lot and start building a house in Dorchester Countyís largest development to date.

Other houses have already started to be built in The Ponds, a 1,950-acre development located on Highway 17-A south near the intersection with Dorchester Road. Next week another major milestone in the communityís future occurs.

Groundbreaking will commence on the Summerville YMCAís new facility, mostly funded by The Ponds developers, Greenwood Development.

Wilkes, who currently lives in White Church Place, has already finished the plans for his new home. But, before the home is built, a dependency or better known as a cottage, will be built on his custom lot.

Dependencies are a unique facet to The Ponds, the developmentís general manager John Morgan says as each home site is allowed to have one. But, what also sets The Ponds apart is that it is a ìdestination community,î as Morgan describes it.

It will combine single-family homes, town homes and condominiums to provide an array of housing. It also will feature 50,000 square feet of commercial space to come much later in the 12- to 15-year development time frame.

ìThe old-fashioned Southern town didnít develop by price points. It provided a mixture within one streetscape and that is what we intend to do,î Morgan says.

Lots start in the low-$100,000s and homes start in the low $300,000s.

Morgan says Summerville residents, like Wilkes, have been interested in The Ponds as well as others from other bustling suburbs like Mt. Pleasant and Daniel Island. But, the development is also attracting attention from outside the Charleston area, including a lot of retirees interested in building a place to spend their golden years.

ìWeíre setting a new precedent for everything else. We have positioned The Ponds to attract the entire Charleston community. We offer a lifestyle not just a home,î Morgan said. Greenwood Development has done other Charleston area projects such as Coosaw Creek Country Club on Dorchester Road and Beresford Hall on Daniel Island.

Wilkes says it is the communityís natural topography that drew him to the neighborhood.

Situated on a 1,950-acre tract of land, it borders the foot of the Ashley River and Schulz Lake, which leads into the river. The actual homes, Morgan says, will sit atop an 850-acre plateau surrounded by 1,110 acres of pristine woodlands that will be conserved.

Wilkes says the natural beauty of the property and the way they are building the homes while preserving the surroundings drew him and his wife to buy a lot.

ìIf you appreciate nature and history, once you walk the grounds and through the restored 19th century farmhouse and walk the many miles of densely wooded forest trails under the grand oaks, you will be hooked,î Wilkes says.

Morgan boasts that the master plan for the development calls for more than 60 miles of trails and sidewalks along with river access for canoeing and kayaking.

Thatís one of the things Wilkes enjoys. He often has been spotted out walking the property to take in its beauty.

The way The Ponds is developing has Morgan finally encouraging prospective buyers to view the community first hand.

ìItís getting a great reaction particularly when they visit in person because most people donít expect it to be this beautiful,î Morgan says.

Sales have done well despite the slumping housing market, he adds.

Last year they sold 23 lots and already have closed on more since the start of 2008.

Six builders were selected to be part of the initial phases. To do so, they have to build spec homes, something many donít normally do, but Morgan says to be part of The Ponds the builders are willing to make the exception.

Also, custom lots are available for purchase for buyers like Wilkes. So far, Morgan says, three custom homes have already started construction. Numerous builders have already started their spec homes as well.

The Ponds was the first large-scale development to be approved in Dorchester County and was done so back in 2005 through a development agreement.

And so far, County Council Chairman Larry Hargett is pleased with the result.

ìThe look is wonderful and itís a great project. Greenwood is the type of developer weíre proud to work with,î Hargett says.

Greenwood Development has agreed to the following:

40 acres have been donated to School District Two for an elementary and middle school.

$100 per home assessed on the tax bill for public works improvements.

Land and $300,000 to Dorchester County for a public safety complex, including a fire and EMS station.

The groundbreaking at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for the site of the new Ponds YMCA facility continues the process of bringing civic areas to the neighborhood. Not only has the land been donated, but $3 million toward the cost of the facility is also being given to the YMCA by Greenwood as prescribed by the development agreement.

The rest of the cost for the fire and EMS station beyond what Greenwood has to contribute will be funded through the capital improvements plan the county passed last year. The improvements program includes a master plan to drastically increase the number of fire and EMS stations around the county through funding every year.

One civic area already exists. An outdoor amphitheatre is wired and ready for use, which Morgan hopes will attract community concerts in the future.

ìThe fact that everything planned and built to date is so tastefully done has impressed me,î Wilkes said.

Contact Ryan Castle at 873-9424 ext. 216 or rcastle@journalscene.com.