Amendments could help end negotiations with home builder in Dorchester Co.

For years, Dorchester County, homeowners and builder Kolter Homes have been going back and forth on the fate of the Ponds community near Summerville.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 4:07 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2023 at 7:11 PM EDT
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DORCHESTER, S.C. (WCSC) - For years, Dorchester County, homeowners and builder Kolter Homes have been going back and forth on the fate of the Ponds community near Summerville, and there’s a potential way forward to end years of legal discussions.

Chuck Bryant, a member of The Ponds homeowners’ association board of directors, said they made recommendations to both the county and Kolter a few weeks back. Some of their recommendations were passed for the first time on Monday during a scheduled county council meeting.

“It’s been going on for a number of years, but the last few years have been really tense,” Bryant said about the negotiations.

Neighbors previously claimed Kolter overdeveloped and didn’t honor the initial agreement, which was signed in 2005 with a separate builder, Greenwood Development.

“This has been a minefield to get through because when you get personalities, politics and money involved, it’s a minefield,” Bryant said. “You have to be very deliberate on where you walk, but you got to be persistent.”

Bryant said up until a few weeks ago, negotiations between all involved had stopped following a settlement agreement passed last year.

“Kolter actually invited us in, the board, the HOA board, to talk about the future of the Ponds,” he said. “When we found out that negotiations had gone into neutral and nothing else was going on, we decided to ask, ‘Hey, let us give it a shot,’ and they said OK.”

Their recommendations have yielded some changes to the neighborhood.

“We didn’t have a vote. We didn’t have much leverage,” Bryant said. “What we had to do was present recommendations to both of them of what the residents felt like were priorities to them.”

For example, around 35 acres will be conveyed to the county for Dorchester School District Two to potentially build a new school.

“Just going to make sure the school site is in there and protected and talking with Dorchester Two looking at a K-8 school site there,” County Councilmember Jay Byars said. “One of my big things there is not building two schools in the neighborhood much worse and building one school that really serves that neighborhood.”

The agreement also caps the number of homes at 1,950, adds a second pool as well as a second entrance. Right now, all homeowners, plus the firefighters at the station found inside of the neighborhood, all exit through one road onto Highway 17A.

“If we have an accident, which we’ve already had several of those, some serious, if there’s an accident, and it ties up that exit, our EMS and our firetrucks can’t get out of here,” Bryant said. “Close to 2,000 homes times two cars minimum, we’re looking at four thousand vehicles coming and going. We also have a fire station and EMS station that’s constantly running out of here.”

Byars said the issues with the Ponds’ original development agreement has influenced their standards for future development in the county.

“Part of what got us here was that the original development agreement was vague. It was written in 2005,” Byars said. “Going forward, our development agreements are a lot tighter, and we worked hard to make sure that developers build a quality product, but also implement things with traffic mitigation, greenspace conservation.”

Instead of an on-camera interview, Kolter Homes Legal Counsel Cheryl Shoun sent over this statement:

We are working collaboratively with Dorchester County Council to reach an amicable solution so we can deliver community-focused results benefitting our residents and those living near the Ponds. Recently, several homeowners have contributed a great deal of positive input. Thank you to the following residents, and the Resident Advisory Committee, for their efforts in finding a promising path forward:

David Rubin – Resident Advisor

Emily Quandt – Resident Advisor

Chuck Miller – Resident BOD Member

Chuck Bryant – Resident BOD Member

Rachelle Hall – Resident BOD Member

Gail Sherman – Cresswind Resident BOD Member

“The big step for us that keeps us optimistic about all this is the willingness from both Kolter and the county to let the residents finally have a say in what happens to our neighborhood,” Bryant said.

These amendments will have to go through two more readings at county council before they’re implemented.

However, both the homeowners and the county hope the latest effort can end the legal negotiations for good.

“I think 85, 90 percent of people are going to be very happy with this, and when you’re in government, that’s about the best you can ask for,” Byars said. “You’re never going to get 100% satisfaction with everything. I’m not 100% satisfied, but I’m good with 80 to 90 percent of what I’m looking for, and I think we’re going to be able to do that.”