JASPER COUNTY, SC (WSAV) – A multi-million dollar project in Jasper County could be a boon to the area, but some folks believe progress is coming at the expense of nature and their homes.
The Chelsea South project is proposed for a 290-acre property near Okatie Highway (Highway 170) intersection and Snake Road. That’s near the Tickton Hall/Strawberry Hill/Chery Hill neighborhoods.
It would have a maximum density of 438 residential units, 269 units for multi-family residential, 69,600 square feet of community commercial, and 315,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial. Bringing a big tax boost to the relatively poor county and town. The property would be annexed into Ridgeland as part of the deal.
The proposal would rezone the land from rural preservation to a mixed-use planned development district to make those plans happen.
Plans that 1000 people who have signed a petition against the project say are too big, too fast, and not right for the area.
“There’s no development here,” says Reginald White, a Cherry Hill home and landowner. “You can sit here for a moment and hear nothing.”
Reginald White is the 8th generation of his family to live on and have land in Cherry Hill. His family has 200 acres of land to pay taxes on every year. They rent some out for hunting to help defray the cost. He’s concerned development may end that plan. But more important in his mind is the loss of the beautiful area he calls home.
“We would love to be able to share this beauty with people. But what’s the good of having it if no one else can see it.”
“If all this is developed where do our future generations go to look back at history and to look at the natural beauty of places,” wonders Cathy Decourcy.
Cathy Decourcy moved down from Rhode Island and calls this a great place to live. She has warmer weather, beautiful views, and nature surrounding her. She believes this paradise could be short-lived with the project in its current form.
“We just want smart development to preserve what we have now,” says Cathy. “Once it’s gone it’s gone forever and you never get it back.”
The 10 people who spoke to News 3 on this day say there’s history all around. Thomas Heyward’s property, the Chelsea Plantation, and waterways were used for Civil War soldiers’ travel.
Also of concern they say, are oyster beds, crab, and fish populations in the 131 acres of wetlands that could be affected by runoff from construction and the day-to-day activity of the large developments.
It is not just the water, but the roads that are also worrying to many people.
“Each house, rooftop they calculate as 2.5 vehicles per day,” explains Milton Woods.
That could be pushing Highway 462, an already busy two-lane corridor from I-95 to Highway 170 past its maximum traffic level. It would have two access points along snake road and one on Highway 170, an area where traffic is already heavy, and will only get heavier when the East Argent project on Highway 170 is finished in a few years.
While Jasper County has gotten money from the state of South Carolina to resurface that road, residents still believe it will eventually end up a four-lane road. That would lead to property that has been in families for generations taken via eminent domain for pavement. A process that could be hastened by this development.
All of these reasons have led to a Facebook page, a petition and a group of citizens now dedicated to finding a way for their way of life and “development”, not “overdevelopment” to peacefully co-exist.
“Make sure it’s going to be good for the citizens for the local people and make sure it’s going to be a positive for our county our town our community and for our people here,” explains Woods.
“Do you think this is a positive for the community?”
“No, I don’t. It possibly could be but when you are taking critical land and waterways and building, overbuilding then you are not going to be protective.”
The group would like to see a community meeting or forum on this project, and any projects going forward that could affect their waterways. That way they can express their opinions directly to Council before it votes. They also want a complete traffic study made public before a vote is taken.
This proposal has come in front of Council already, for a first reading last Summer.
At that June 27 public hearing, Grant McClure of the Coastal Conservation League joined citizens in opposing the development plan in front of Council.
CCL has also started its own petition against the project: https://secure.coastalconservationleague.org/a/tell-jasper-county-council-oppose-rezoning-chelsea-south-tract
County Attorney David Tedder also told reporters from Bluffton Today a task force would be formed to deal with the concerns and the development agreement.
There was a workshop at Ridgeland Town Council on November 7, 2022 about the issue as well.
The council did talk about the issue at the December meeting but no vote was taken.
The earliest a second reading could happen would be the January 5 meeting.