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County Council, November 19

Spring Grove Project gets final approval
Some differences over amendments
Warwick Jones

The only item of interest on the agenda of yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting was the 3rd reading of the Spring Grove Ordinances. The most important was the Spring Grove Development Agreement (DA) which is effectively a “contract” between the County and the developer of the project. The Committee approved all of the ordinances but it seems the passage of the DA was not without some bumps.

At the first and second readings, Council gave its approval of the DA but indicated that negotiations were continuing with WestRock and that some amendments were likely to be made. We have not seen the final DA but from the comments made last night – at and outside the meeting - there were differences as to financing a fund for community purposes and the time span for the Agreement.

In the final DA, the developer agreed to direct 0.5% of the proceeds of all its property sales to a fund to finance community projects. The projects will serve largely citizens residing outside the Spring Grove area. Some Council members thought the allocation should be 1% but the developer objected. It estimated that the 0.5% allocation will yield about $14 million over the life of the project. It had earlier estimated that the yield would be about half this amount but no explanation was given to Council for the now higher figure. County Attorney Dawson said that WestRock had provided data to back its higher calculation.

We had estimated that a 0.5% allocation would yield about $10 million (2013 dollars) when based on the property valuations estimated by Municap. However, in a previous note we said that if it were levied on re-sales as well, as is in Daniel Island, the figure would be higher.

Some Council members were looking for a less than 50-year term which again the developer opposed. It also seems that the developer was looking for two 10-year extensions. These were opposed by the County.

We understand that there were other amendments that related to the development of the Industrial area but we do not know the details.

Council member Pryor voted against approval of all of the Spring Grove ordinances while Council member Johnson voted only against the Development Agreement.

So after some years after negotiations began with the County, the Spring Grove project can now go ahead.

The project has been well publicized and subject to many public meetings. Suffice to say is that it will be a major project encompassing 14,508 acres in the East Edisto area, just west of Ravenel and Hollywood. Only 8,849 acres are developable as the balance is wetlands. The project was initiated by Mead Westvaco. But the owner is now West Rock, a company formed with the merger of Mead Westvaco and RockTenn.

To accommodate and facilitate the development, the County adopted Form Base Code Zoning for the development. About 75 % of the developable area will be reserved open space with development of no more than 1 dwelling per 25 acres. The balance, essentially along Highway 17, will be more intensely developed, and as well as dwellings, will include industrial, commercial and retail projects.

The life of the project is 50 years. Municap, in an appendix to the Development Agreement, made some estimates as to the size of the project at the completed buildout. It projected 6,000 dwelling units, 540,000 sq.ft. of retail, 475,000 sq.ft. of office space and 2.9 million sq. ft. of industrial. Using the unit values in the appendix, we estimate the value of the dwelling units will amount to about $1.56 billion and the nonresidential at $413 million, making a total of $1.97 billion. These estimates are in 2013 dollars. (From our October 9 note)

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