FORT MILL — From the current corner of Hensley and Legion roads, the end is in sight.
One end, at least, of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass route cutting its recently wooded path from Williams Road parallel to Legion, past Hensley to a connection with Springfield Parkway. It’s a mass of wood, mud and newfound sky. It’s a faint red awning from a distant gas station.
And, it’s people.
People like David and Joyce Osborne who moved into 1360 Hensley Road 49 years ago. Neighbors they’ve known that whole time recently moved to make way for the bypass or connecting roads. Homes will be removed on either side. Trees Joyce remembers from childhood – she’s 77 and can still point to the home where she was born from her front yard – are now stumps.
There’s been noise, but also driveway repairs. The Osbornes lost about a quarter acre to right-of-way, which comes within 15 feet of their home.
“They told us they can come within 10 feet of my house without having to buy my house,” David Osborne said.
The family plans to stay in their home, near children and grandchildren. Their residence there predates Legion Road, which now runs almost straight into them, so the experience isn’t entirely new. If the Osbornes were upset before they aren’t now. They figure there’s not much use being bothered by it.
“We can’t complain much because they own it now,” Joyce Osborne said.
Just across the road bearing his family name, Billy Hensley isn’t complaining, either. His farm at 1373 Hensley Road was in the way of an earlier bypass route. Hensley keeps and boards horses on what once was 100 acres, but sits at about 20 now. That earlier route would’ve cut straight between the house he was born in 71 years ago and the barn, and “probably gotten one or the other.”
“It would’ve been complicated,” Hensley said.
Hensley recalls when the “racetrack” in front of his home wasn’t a paved road yet, and “wasn’t much of a dirt road.” He calls the bypass project a “great undertaking,” and not just because the current plan doesn’t have him losing property.
“It’s hard to get through Fort Mill anymore in the evenings,” Hensley said. “I understand it.”
Having a little harder time understanding is Howard Allred. His home of more than 60 years at 1441 McKinney Street is more in the way of a Legion Road realignment than the actual bypass. Allred lost half of a six-acre property he owns. He lost 20 feet from his own yard. The bypass nearly took the property where his daughter lives. It did take a rental property of his.
“It’s a mess,” Allred said. “I don’t know why they want to move Legion Road over. I can’t understand that.”
Allred, like other residents, recalls an initial bypass route that wouldn’t have taken any of the neighboring properties, instead running through then vacant land near Kimbrell Road. By the time a plan took shape – Allred estimates the bypass has been discussed at least two decades –, new homes had been planned for the area.
Now Allred, who says the family renting his lost property got more from the project than he got for the property itself, is concerned that when the bypass is finished, the area might be annexed into Fort Mill, bringing more taxes. It’s a steep price, he said, for work that might help the Banks Street side of the bypass more than it will him.
“I just can’t see where that bypass is going to help traffic any,” Allred said.
Neighbors, perhaps predictably, react to the coming road largely based on how close it comes to them. All say the change will be significant. It certainly will be for Joyce Osborne. That house where she was raised soon won’t be standing. Meaning she’ll have to point elsewhere in recalling a time seeming more distant by the hour. A time that’s all but bypassed.
“The offer that they made was decent,” David Osborne said. “It’s just a change when they say this is what you’ve been used to the last 49 or 50 years, and what you’ll have to get used to.”