Residents of Van Wyck don’t want growth changing their town

Special to the Fort Mill TimesDecember 20, 2013 

Members of the White Oak AME Zion Church and Troop 809 Scouts gathered on their float and sang to the crowds during the fifth annual Van Wyck Community Development Club Christmas Parade and Candy Toss on Saturday.

AMANDA HARRIS

— This will likely remain the small, quaint town it has always been even as Lancaster and Indian Land continue to see a boom in commercial and residential growth.

Ollie Bass, longtime Van Wyck resident and former president of the Van Wyck Community Development Club, said residents want to keep the small town atmosphere.

“They don’t want anything to change,” Bass said. “They like it just the way it is.”

Bass, who moved to Van Wyck 13 years ago from Goldsboro, N.C., said he and his wife love Van Wyck and its people.

“We fell in love with it and made it our home,” he said. “It’s like we’ve lived here all of our life.”

Van Wyck residents maintain their traditions, which include a Fall Festival every September, a Halloween celebration in October and the annual Van Wyck Community Development Club Christmas Parade. A monthly blue grass jam at the community center is open to players and listeners alike and includes free food like pizza and barbecue (donations accepted). Sometimes the house band for these jams features some of the best bluegrass talent in the region, like the well-known Hinson Girls.

“We’re constantly doing something,” Bass said. “The Community Club is the heart of the whole community.”

Keeping it small

Location is a major factor in the ability of Van Wyck to remain small as land owners determined to keep their property in the family, help protect against any developments that would encroach on the rural character of the community, said Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes.

As growth continues to radiate from Charlotte to the Indian Land Panhandle and southern Lancaster County, Van Wyck is not attractive to developers. It’s not too close to the interstate and is largely a bedroom community.

“It’s a very good protection for Van Wyck to be immune to that kind of growth,” Carnes said. “Location is working in their favor right now.”

The only connection Van Wyck has to big development is the back entrance to Sun City, which sits on Van Wyck Road, Carnes said.

Most of the growth in Van Wyck has been residential, with houses being built on 2 to 3 acre lots.

“It’s not your typical housing development,” Carnes said.

The lack of infrastructure and sewage access also contributes to the ability of Van Wyck to remain small, said Keith Tunnell, president at Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation.

Carnes said while growth is possible in the Van Wyck area, the amount of land owned by families makes it unlikely to attract many developers, unlike what has been seen in Indian Land and Lancaster, which still have areas for potential growth.

“I don’t see it growing at a faster pace than it’s grown now,” he said.

While Van Wyck continues to see some residential growth, the small-town feel remains as long-time residents keep their traditions alive, said Jane Massey, president of the Van Wyck Community Development Club. Massey said that while new residents have called Van Wyck home in recent years, about 10 percent of them join in the activities that connect the community.

Massey said Van Wyck is unique in that everything in the community is driven by the churches and Community Club.

“It’s a way of life,” she said.

Van Wyck residents want to control the growth that comes to the area and continue to protect their small town, Massey said.

“Growth is good,” she said. “We are doing what we‘ve always done.”

Van Wyck’s holiday festivities and local traditions help maintain the town’s charm, said Larry McCullough, chairman of the Lancaster County Council and one of two representatives from the Panhandle.

“They have a very strong community,” he said. “There are wonderful people there.”

New growth

Van Wyck has seen some commercial growth as small businesses begin to call the area home.

Rebound Behavioral Health, an adult private inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse treatment facility, opened its doors just down the road at 134 E. Rebound Road in Lancaster in September to help people with substance abuse and therapeutic needs.

The Ivy Place, at 8603 Van Wyck Road is a venue for weddings, receptions and other events. The Place also sells fresh strawberries picked from the farm each summer.

Lancaster County is re-writing the Comprehensive Plan, which was written in 1998, said Penelope G. Karagounis, planning director for Lancaster County.

While the Comprehensive Plan, which provides a snapshot of the entire county, has been updated every five years, it now needs to be rewritten, Karagounis said.

“Demographics have changed tremendously in the last 10 years,” she said.

The county has hired the Catawba Regional Council of Governments as the consultant help for the rewrite.

As the county rewrites the plan, community members will have a chance to share their views on what the county should look like as it continues to grow and change, Karagounis said. Public meetings will begin in 2014.

Van Wyck may soon see change as well.

While much of the Van Wyck area belongs to families, plans are in process to develop the Treetops property. Mattamy Homes hopes to build a new residential development with up to 1,200 homes on Treetops, once a children’s camp that served children through The Family Center in Charlotte.

However, Van Wyck residents will continue to fight the development of an area that they hold near to their heart, Massey said.

“Treetops is very special to a lot of people in Van Wyck,” she said.

Treetops developers will need to go through the rezoning process as the area is under a zoning classification no longer legal in South Carolina, Carnes said. The developers are looking at all their zoning options, including a possibility under the Cluster/Conservation development ordinance, which would allow them to use smaller lots.

The Lancaster Planning Commission approved the Cluster ordinance in its final form in September. The Lancaster County Council approved the ordinance on the first two readings, and will vote on the ordinance on its third reading during its Jan. 13 meeting.

Treetops’ former owners had to sell the property when the camp was no longer financially stable, but residents continue to fight for the former camp, Carnes said.

“You can’t fault an owner of a piece of property for wanting to sell that property,” Carnes said. “(But) I applaud the people of Van Wyck for wanting to keep their community the way it is.”

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