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Edenmoor marked marked two significant milestones Dec. 13 as new developers announced a name change for the once-troubled Indian Land neighborhood and turned over a new EMS station to the county.
New owners Edenmoor Land Acquisition LLC (ELA), a partnership between Saybrook Municipal Opportunity Fund IV of Santa Monica, Calif., and LStar Management LLC of Raleigh, N.C., closed on the property Oct. 28.
Last week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and announcement came as developers focus on key infrastructure improvements to revitalize a neighborhood that had fallen into severe disrepair after the former owners walked away from the project three years ago.
“Presenting the keys to the EMS station to Lancaster County marks a turning point for this community,” ELA portfolio manager Jon Schotz said. “This is the perfect time to announce the new name for this community.
“From this day forward, Edenmoor shall be known as Walnut Creek,” he said. “We are redefining what this community can be, both in the implementation of much-needed improvements and a new marketing campaign that will reinvigorate the community.”
ELA officials said the name Walnut Creek refers to the black walnut trees that dot the 850-acre property, as well as the three creeks that cross it – Six Mile, Delaney and Twelve Mile creeks.
More than that, LStar partner Jeff Milligan said the name change represents a clean break with the development’s rocky past.
“The rationale for the name change is that it’s a new start,” Milligan said. “The past is behind us and Walnut Creek is the new beginning.”
Nearly 100 residents, ELA officials and state, local and county officials attended the ribbon-cutting cer- emony for the new station.
Turning over the station is the first step in the fulfillment of a contract requirement stemming from a 2006 agreement between former developers Lawson’s Bend LLC and the county.
The new Lancaster County EMS Station No. 8 is a 2,670 square-foot, two-bay, beige, stone building with an administrative office, living room, kitchen and two bedrooms.
The station will house one ambulance for now and serve as living quarters for six full-time EMS medics, two on duty at a time in rotating 24-hour shifts.
Lancaster County EMS Director Rob Petrucci said the new station will help meet the safety needs of the growing Panhandle.
“We only had one station in the center of Indian Land and it takes a considerable time to respond to the bottom half (of the Panhandle),” Petrucci said. “So we needed to move south.
“As Walnut Creek continues to grow, we’ll need to meet our obligation here, as well as the southern part of the area,” he said. “Plus this also keeps EMS Station No. 2 in Lancaster from having to come up quite so frequently.”
Lancaster County Operations Manager Greg Robinson said the new station comes as a welcome change for crew members who’ve had to bunk in a trailer behind EMS Station No. 4 near Indian Land Middle School since October.
Robinson said there are only a few finishing touches that need to be completed and a certificate of occupancy should be granted by Dec. 20. With the supply room already stocked, all the crew will have to do then is hook up the radios and wait for a call.
“It’s a beautiful station. We probably couldn’t have built one this nice ourselves if they (developers) hadn’t built it,” he said. “But I’m happiest for the residents. They’ve been through a lot and you can tell they’re happier about it than we are.”
The neighborhood formerly known as Edenmoor was originally intended to have been a grand 2,000-home subdivision, one of the largest in the state.
The vision fell apart in October 2008 when Lawson’s Bend walked away from the project and later filed bankruptcy under the burden of $2.2 million in contractor liens.
In 2009, the county seized the property for delinquent taxes and assessments, offered it for bid in a tax sale late last year and earlier this year granted an initial purchase contract to Charlotte-based developer Eden Ventures.
But the company’s deal collapsed in August after Saybrook purchased the project’s $32.9 million worth of bonds, a move which led to ELA’s purchase of the property.
Speaking with Walnut Creek residents, it is clear that they are, indeed, happy with the outcome and invigorated by the transformation they’ve seen in their neighborhood over the course of the last month and a half.
Walnut Creek resident Pat Chitwood said she feels much more secure knowing there’s an EMS station right around the corner. She said the work ELA is doing gives her hope that she and husband, Jerry, didn’t make the wrong choice in buying a home in the development.
“I want to cry I’m so excited,” Chitwood said. “It has been like a roller coster here – good news, bad news, good news, bad news ...
You see your house depreciate and the neighborhood crumble and you think, what have I done?
“It’s a form of comfort that they’re here,” she said. “Before the renovation, it was sad. Now I think it’s going to get better.”
Renovations at Walnut Creek took off within days of closing, with developers focusing on erosion control and repairing crumbling roads.
According to ELA officials, since that time, contractors have stabilized and graded nine areas of severe erosion, including several ravines that threatened houses; cleaned out 27 sediment basins and traps and installed 6.25 miles of silt fencing to capture storm runoff.
Contractors have also mowed and seeded 186.5 acres of weed-infested property, repaired and prepped 4.6 miles of road and replaced 1,849 linear feet of curb, company officials said.
In coming months, company officials said ELA will comply with the second part of the contract agreement with the county to finish and turn over a $4.2 million park complex and a severely vandalized clubhouse for use by Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department.
LStar Managing Partner Kyle Corkum said in Phase 1 of the project, the residential portion of the development off of Jim Wilson Road, the focus is now moving to landscaping and beautification.
He said ELA is focused so intently on renovations and improvements at Walnut Creek because both the company and residents alike want to see the neighborhood thrive as soon as possible.
“We want kids out here playing, we want families enjoying the park, so this is a very high priority for us,” Corkum said. “We want to get Phase 1 built and new residents moving in and make this a real neighborhood instead of a story line.”
Neighborhood gets new HOA
Along with all the other changes, Walnut Creek is also getting a new homeowners association, welcome news to residents who were forced for years to pay dues to an HOA that offered no services or representation.
LStar Senior Vice President Jeff Milligan said the development’s new HOA, Hawthorne Management Co. of Charlotte is taking over from former HOA Abbot Enterprises.
He also addressed one of the few concerns residents still have – when do ELA representatives plan to make good on their promise to meet with residents?
“The HOA is in the process of going through prior budgets and working on a 2012 budget,” Milligan said. “We’re working on holding a joint meeting in the first quarter, essentially, for the first HOA meeting.
“That will be a joint meeting with residents between the HOA and the joint ELA team,” he said. “But as of yet, a specific date hasn’t been set.”
Among the dignitaries attending last week’s ribbon cutting were S.C. House District 45 Rep. Deborah Long, Lancaster County Council members, Sheriff Barry Faile, County Administrator Steve Willis and Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce President Dean Faile and chamber Chairwoman-elect Susan Rowell.