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A small group of Sun City Carolina Lakes residents, some swatting their arms in apparent disgust, abruptly left Lancaster County Council’s Sept. 24 meeting after learning council had no plans to continue discussion of a proposed road connection.
Residents of the Indian Land neighborhood came to the meeting hoping to hear a decision from council about the creation of a road between the neighborhood and River Road, which runs near Indian Land High School off U.S. 521.
Council members put the discussion on hold in August until they developed more information, though their final decision was not what the Sun City residents in attendance were expecting.
Citing information gathered by the county’s planning commission, Council Chairwoman Kathy Sistare briefly said council decided not to discuss the matter further.
“The planning commission met and the planning commission said they didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear a motion for this,” Sistare said. “So no action will be made by Lancaster County Council.”
Council had been considering the issue since late August, when more than 200 Sun City residents packed council’s chambers and spilled into the hallway, all to plead for the road connection.
Most of those residents urged council to speak with the development’s builder, Pulte Homes, about fulfilling a requirement to create an access road to accommodate emergency vehicles, though others asked for the creation of a public thoroughfare to improve traffic flow.
But with the discussion suddenly stopped in its tracks, the group of residents at the Sept. 24 meeting stood up and filed out the door, with one man stopping to say “What a waste of time.”
The decision came about an hour after a man spoke out against the potential road during the citizens comments portion of the meeting.
Mike Richmond, who lives on River Road, said the increased traffic from a connector road from Sun City would be detrimental to his neighborhood. He worried the new road would exacerbate traffic problems in the area and said existing traffic from Indian Land High School is already “horrendous.”
“The Sun City developer knew what they were doing when they set up this development. It has nothing to do with us on our side,” Richmond said.
Richmond was the only resident to address the issue on either side at the Sept. 24 meeting.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said Thursday there are several factors keeping the issue at a standstill.
First, he said the road connection was determined by the planning commission not to be under the county’s jurisdiction. A major roadblock is that River Road is a state secondary road, not county-owned, meaning any proposal for a road must be approved by the S.C. Department of Transportation.
“They (Sun City residents) can talk to Pulte about it, but DOT’s position is that this is an older road, not in good condition and that the road simply couldn’t handle the traffic,” Willis said.
In conversations with SCDOT traffic engineers, Willis learned SCDOT will not approve the public road plan because of the poor condition of River Road and problems that could arise with traffic near the high school.
Willis said SCDOT would reconsider if a traffic study is completed and if an outside source, such as Pulte or the homeowners association, would fund any road improvements.
Further complicating the situation are the repairs and construction needed if the plan did move forward.
“At minimum, they’re probably looking at a full-depth reclamation because they have to strengthen the road for increased traffic,” Willis said. “You’d also have to widen the road to two lanes or even four lanes.”
With the road’s proximity to Lancaster County Water and Sewer District’s wastewater treatment plant, the plan may even require the relocation of pressurized pipes called sewer force mains, Willis said.
“We’re talking about work that could go into the millions of dollars in a worse-case scenario,” he said. “The CTC (County Transportation Committee) could theoretically throw their annual money toward it, but if it’s $3 million, then that’s three years of the committee’s funding. And that means abandoning every other road in Lancaster County.”
Options for residents include finding an alternate funding source, such as creating a special tax district for Sun City, Willis said.
As for the emergency access road, Willis previously said county ordinance 691, approved in 2006, requires that Pulte build access to River Road.
“That connection will go in and DOT is OK if emergency vehicles use it,” Willis said.
He said the road will be created before anyone moves in to the newest portion of the neighborhood, Turkey Point.
Plans for the emergency road include a gate with a “Click to Access” system that only activates and opens when it picks up a radio frequency from an emergency responder vehicle, he said. Work on the road, and the Turkey Point area, may begin in early 2013.