CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - In the next few weeks, county leaders may make a decision that could impact a huge development known as "East Edisto." MeadWestvaco wants to build several small communities on its land along the Edisto River, east of Highway 61 to Highway 17, in southern Charleston and Dorchester counties.
For Michael Cordray farming is his livelihood. He traces his family roots to this area of rural Dorchester and Charleston counties back more than 200 years, but now he's unsure what the future holds.
"What I would hope with development in "East Edisto" is that the heritage that's here would not change," Cordray said.
The 78,000 plus acre MeadWestvaco development known as "East Edisto" may be getting closer to becoming a reality. Charleston County planning officials are recommending that council members approve a new zoning district called "Form-Based Zoning" for the development.
"They were looking to create a development that has a sense of form, character, mixed use, and a simplified process for development over a long period of time," Charleston County Planning Director Dan Pennick said.
MeadWestvaco's plans could take 40 years or more to build. "East Edisto" would include many small communities or villages, with space for homes, schools, businesses, shops, and restaurants.
Because the development would be built in this rural part of Charleston County, county planners say approving the new zoning district would help protect the character of the area.
"You're not going to see the intensity of development or sprawl that would occur if you just had traditional zoning. You're really starting to focus and channel," Pennick said.
Nearby residents hope to preserve their way of life.
"If you don't want to be in all that traffic and you're willing to be self sufficient, then you don't really want to have that type of development all around you," Cordray said.
The new "Form-Based Zoning District" would require a change in the county's ordinance. There will be public hearings on the change and county council members must give the final approval.
If the new zoning district is approved, MeadWestvaco hopes to start working with the county to get approval for East Edisto by end of next year. They will also be working with Dorchester County officials for approval of the project.