City, landowners plan community on Cainhoy

Cainhoy  and inset photo

To the right of Cainhoy Road, industrial development is planned as part of the proposed mixed-use community. The Francis Marion National Forest sits to the left of the road. Development is planned for the southern side of Clements Ferry, which already has commercial and industrial activity along it. (Photos by Liz Segrist)

By Liz Segrist
Published Dec. 20, 2013
From the Dec. 16, 2013 print edition

Cainhoy Plantation in Charleston could become the next Daniel Island — but bigger.

More than half of a 9,000-acre plantation is on track to become a massive, mixed-use development. The land sits between Daniel Island and the Francis Marion National Forest. Clements Ferry Road runs through it.

The development’s density limit is set at 2.1 units per acre for up to 4,300 residences. Estimates anticipate up to 20,000 people could call it home over the next couple of decades.

Family members of the late Harry Frank Guggenheim have owned the plantation for more than 80 years and were among the original Daniel Island developers. They plan to emulate components of Daniel Island to create a community in which residents can walk to places where they “live, work shop, learn and play.”

“The basic design elements here are similar to Daniel Island in that they incorporate integrated mixed-uses at a variety of price points,” said Matt Sloan, the representative for the land owners, Cainhoy Land & Timber.

Conservationists are concerned about development impacting long leaf pine forests on the northern side of Clements Ferry. (Photo by Liz Segrist
Conservationists are concerned about development impacting long leaf pine forests on the northern side of Clements Ferry. (Photo by Liz Segrist)
The Historic Charleston Foundation and Coastal Conservation League have concerns about the density of the development and the proximity to the national forest.

“I think what’s being proposed and what’s going to the planning commission is a little scary. It’s so huge and it’s not clear how it’s going to be phased,” Historic Charleston Foundation Chief Preservation Officer Winslow Hastie said of the plans under consideration by the city.

Development plans for Cainhoy Plantation call for commercial, retail, industrial and green spaces, as well as residential components, according to the city of Charleston planning documents. The city planning department did not return requests for comment.

Sloan, also the president of the Daniel Island Co., is seeing the landowners through the entitlement process, which covers the plantation’s entire 9,000 acres. Only 5,000 will be developed over time since the remaining acreage is designated as wetlands or set aside for recreational use for the owners, Sloan said.

Roughly 800 acres are being considered for development at this time, all of which is on the south side of Clements Ferry Road, Sloan said. It could take more than 30 years to build out the entire master plan.

The land would be sold to builders, developers and commercial users. Sloan said initial discussions have taken place. He declined to disclose company names.

Formal discussions with developers will not take place until the entitlement process is completed, likely in the first half of 2014, Sloan said.

“This is a large place and an important piece of property,” Sloan said. “There’s no urgency or rush to do it quickly.”

Development in motion

The first development headed for Cainhoy Plantation — a new high school for 1,500 Berkeley County students — is underway. The land owners are selling a parcel to the school district, which anticipates opening the school in August 2017. A grade school and middle school are also being considered for the area.

Currently, Clements Ferry Road is the only main, public street in the Cainhoy area. City plans call for creating a network of streets to the north of Jack Primus Road, where much of the residential units are planned.

Berkeley County is in the process of building access roads and burying power lines on the south side of Clements Ferry Road in anticipation of the new high school and future developments.

Berkeley County’s $122.2 million road improvement plan, funded by a 7-year, one-cent sales tax, will first widen 3.6 miles of Clements Ferry Road from Interstate 526 to Jack Primus Road.

The two-lane road will become a four-lane road with a center turn lane and a roadside recreational trial, according to county documents. The county plans to acquire rights-of-way in 2014 for road widening on Jack Primus Road, Sloan said.

The development is not expected to need any more land from current residents, Sloan said. The number of current residents was not available.

The city recommends that there are as many roadway connections as possible between key suburban developments, according to planning documents.

The road expansions and new schools will likely attract residential and commercial development for the roughly 800 acres south of Clements Ferry Road, Sloan said.

“If you’re going to change the face of the plantation by putting a high school and possibly two other schools on it, it stands to reason that families would like to live in proximity to them,” Sloan said. “That’s what prompted the development plans.”

The idea is to turn the land into a mixed-use development in which residents could walk to work, school, shops, restaurants, trails and greenways.

Portions of the land are zoned for commercial, industrial and retail uses. The land owners don’t envision a “bedroom community.” They want Cainhoy Plantation to be both a place where both Cainhoy-area residents and employees from throughout the region come to work. Sloan anticipates a large commercial and tech sector, and a smaller industrial one.

“We’re seeking to take the principles of Daniel Island, modernize them to the extent that they need to be, although they mostly hold true today, and carry that forward to the Cainhoy area,” Sloan said.

Conservation concerns

Hastie, of the historic foundation, and Jake Libaire, project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, said development along the growing industrial corridor off of the southern end of Clements Ferry makes sense, but they have concerns about developments happening on the northern side of Clements Ferry.

The area — zoned for industrial, commercial and residential — has long leaf pine forests that abut the southern boundary of the Francis Marion National Forest.

“We are not opposed to industrial development on the 9,000 acres, but we don’t believe that’s the right place for it near the forest,” Libaire said of the frontage along Cainhoy Road that’s designated for economic development.

For this area, Libaire advocated for more rural land uses, such as large, plantation-style lots ranging from 10 to 50 acres.

Hastie said he would like to see areas with historical significance or an abundance of natural resources on the Cainhoy Plantation be protected with easements.

Both Libaire and Hastie said more time and public input is needed for a project of this scale. They pointed to MeadWestvaco’s work with East Edisto, a 72,000-acre master planned community in Charleston and Summerville, and the three years of public meetings leading up to that development.

For the Cainhoy development, the city held its first public meeting of the master plan in October.

“This is a huge project and it’s really more appropriate to have more public input,” Libaire said.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or on Twitter @lizsegrist.

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