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Killing Lake Murray with a thousand development nicks

By Steve Bell, Lake Watch columnist

Almost two decades ago, in an opinion article in the State newspaper, Dr. Frank Chapelle, a scientist with the US Geological Survey warned that too much development around the Lake Murray could kill the lake. He stated, “Urbanization is not new to the United States, and there are dozens of examples of lakes overwhelmed by developed. So it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see what can happen to a lake when high density housing moves in.”

Recently American Land Holdings requested a zoning change to construct a 100 unit cluster housing development adjacent to the Plantation Point community on Lake Murray in Newberry County.

Nearby residents are up in arms over the high density concept, which they believe could pollute the cove. Residents are presenting a petition to county council with their concerns regarding the potential negative impacts. The petition reads as follows, “The property owners adjacent to and within the general vicinity, as well as frequent users of Lake Murray which abuts the aforementioned property believe that they will be negatively impacted by this zoning change. The purpose of zoning is to protect property owners from changes in surrounding properties that have the potential to negatively impact those properties in terms of value and use of the existing owners.

The immediate neighbors surrounding this property have restrictions on the minimum size of individual lots and homes that preserve the rural and low-density appeal of the neighborhood and Newberry County in general. The infrastructure supporting the neighborhood is not sufficient for the current capacity of residents and will be inadequate for the density of residences allowed by RSM zoning.”

Lake Murray coves are fragile ecosystems which are highly vulnerable to pollutants from storm water runoff. The “flushing out” of cove pollutants sometimes can take several years, depending of wind and wave action.

Mike Tumm, a resident of the cove, stated that, “One of biggest concerns is protecting this cove area from sediment pollution and E Coli from high density development.” Bacterial contamination can put coves off limits to swimming.

Tumm further explained, “This rezoning request is not just important to those living near the proposed development but to all of us who use Lake Murray. With an additional 100 plus homes it will put a burden on our police, and fire which already has a ISO rating of a 5 in a scale from 1-10, 10 being the worse, Our school system has security and over crowing issues. The roads are already in poor shape. We are talking additional 300 cars on our roads. I can only assume we will be paying for all these upgrades with our tax dollars. We the citizens expect to be taken care of first before catering to people who don’t live here yet.”

Council will have the second reading on March 4th.

Approval of this proposed concept will set a very bad presedent, where anything goes, regardless of existing zoning laws which are suppose to protect existing communities.

Steve Bell is President of Lake Murray Watch. Send comments to

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