Berkeley Co. moving forward with national forest land swap for industrial development

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 3:56 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Cane Gully Road is a two-lane road that goes through the Francis Marion National Forest from Macedonia to Cordesville in Berkeley County. Along that road are homes, farms, forests and an Atlantic Building Components facility.

In early 2022, Berkley County Council tabled a request to take 50 acres of the forest and give it to ABC for use in exchange for 80 acres of forest off of Wren Road and Bethera Road. Now, they are moving forward and recommending the swap take place.

For ABC and its employees, this is good news as the construction company grows successfully. But neighbors along Cane Gully are upset at losing their backyard forest to a company.

Nicole Burbage has lived in the area all her life and now has her own home and land very close to where ABC would build a warehouse and storage facility.

“The majority of the people love the fact that they are in the national forests; we can walk to the Palmetto Trail,” Burbage says. “This is definitely one of the only amenities out this direction. And most people who live here moved here because of that fact, because in theory, if your neighbor is the National Forest, you’re somewhat protected from future growth.”

She says while the land swap does actually increase the forest land by a few acres, it is upsetting to see it lost in her neighborhood.

“We saw that it wasn’t just a company growing, but they were taking over public land that we all love,” Burbage says. “And we use as a natural buffer to the plant already. So rather than having a neighbor down the road, we’re going to have a neighbor in our front yard.”

Burbage is one of a few people who spoke before the council at Tuesday night’s meeting against the plan.

An employee for ABC, who grew up in the area but now lives in Hanahan, spoke in favor of the land swap, saying the growth is a good thing for the 39 employees the warehouse will employ.

“While I understand the community’s concerns, I am very thankful for my job, and I know a lot of people who are also thankful for their jobs, so there are a lot of people’s lives who are wrapped up in this as well that need this for our livelihood,” Scott Goodell said.

The National Forestry Commission has also expressed support for the land exchange. In a letter, the organization outlines that forest land close to the development, like the 50 acres on Cane Gully, often loses some of its “National Forest Character.” The commission also noted that the 80 acres on Wren and Bethera protect more wetlands.

In a statement, the commission writes:

The private tracts are more ecologically significant, and the Forest has determined the exchange to be in the public interest.

Still, Burbage says there are other major concerns with allowing industrial growth along Cane Gully, like safety. The speed limit on Cane Gully Road would be reduced from 55 to 35 if the swap is approved by the council. But Burbage says the old two-lane road isn’t built for 18-wheelers and lots of traffic.

“There’s no way to put that other than the fact that they’re rural roads covered in potholes,” Burbage says. And that’s fine, but when you mix it with large loads, oversize loads hanging off the side of the road, you’re looking at that AM traffic where you have buses, moms, high school kids, all on the road with this plant traffic, literally a road running through the middle of an industrial plant.”

Burbage says that she and other residents on Cane Gully are not against the success and growth of businesses like ABC but want to see the growth done right.

“We welcome growth, jobs are always a wonderful thing,” she said. “But putting them in a location that can handle them, a location that has the infrastructure to handle them, the additional people that may be going, the trucks running up and down the road.”

The planning committee is recommending going ahead with the land swap. The recommendation will now go to the county council on July 11.

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