Dorchester County mediates with home builder near Summerville; residents concerned

Luna Ruth

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) – Dorchester County has agreed to a mediation settlement with builder Kolter Homes regarding The Ponds neighborhood near Summerville.

Neighbors say they’re concerned, saying the builder has overdeveloped on the property, but the county disputes that, saying the original agreement was vague.

“Kolter has built themselves into a corner,” homeowner Brian Riesen said. “When they ran out of land to develop, rather than hand over the amenities on those lands and give up some of their maximum number of homes they’re allowed to build, they asked to get rid of the amenities and ask for more homes and more land.”

The mediation agreement was approved at the last county council meeting on April 18. It was made public late on Friday. Neighbors say they like some parts of the agreement and don’t like others.

The county, meanwhile, says the mediation agreement between them and Kolter Homes is in the best long-term solution for all parties involved.

The agreement adds 50 more single-family homes, from 1,950 to 2,000 homes, along with 74 townhomes off Lotz Drive and gets rid of the requirement of apartments to be built in the subdivision.

However, some homeowners say they feel like the county has turned their back on them by signing this agreement with Kolter.

“They’re getting rid of the village center requirement, leaving less than two acres of zoned commercial but no commitment to build,” Riesen said. “They’ve eliminated the nature trails, and there’s maybe three miles of the original 18 in existence. Many of us feel Kolter has already violated and broken their contract, and the county was, up until last week, holding them accountable, and now, they’ve just decided to let Kolter do what they want, essentially.”

County Councilmember David Chinnis, in response, says the village center, which is a planned retail center, in the original agreement from 2005 was described as up to 94 acres of land to be used for that purpose, meaning there was no concrete amount of acreage specified.

“The amount is up to, or not to exceed, which is vague,” Chinnis said. “It doesn’t tell you how much there’s going to be. It tells you what it won’t be greater than.”

Chinnis also says the nature trails were not specifically mapped out when the original development was signed.

However, as part of the new agreement, Kolter must install 10 miles of walking trails and keep existing ones intact.

“There’s a picture of what we want to keep,” Chinnis said. “They talk about 10 miles of existing trails, but I don’t know if we’ve ever had them identified. For us to go back in and say, ‘You had to do this. You’ve taken this trail. You’ve got to mitigate it.’ Well, at this point in time, there’s a house on it.”

Chinnis also described the original development agreement as “horrible” and “open-ended” and is not something that would happen nowadays.

Jeff Vandewiel, the community director of the Charleston Division for Kolter Homes, released the following statement.

“Kolter Homes is pleased to have reached an agreement with Dorchester County on the planned improvements and continued development of The Ponds neighborhood. While we respect differing opinions, we believe this new shared vision will continue to ensure The Ponds is a wonderful place to call home and will benefit the greater Dorchester County community.”

Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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