Oconee Planners Approve The Pier

Oconee planners gave a unanimous nod Monday night to a land use change that gives a green light for development of student cottage rental properties near Clemson University.

Neal Workman, one of the principals promoting The Pier project on land where the West-point Stevens textile plant once prospered, told the Oconee County Planning Commission that economic factors are dictating the land use change. The Commission had previously approved setbacks for single-family homes at the site for what would have been Pointe West Village. Workman said one of the roadblocks to pursuing the Pointe West concept of single-family homes is the lack of financing from banks for purchasers of lots because waterfront properties have tumbled in price during the economic downturn. Many homes in Point West would have fronted Lake Hartwell. Some waterfront property at the site could still be used for single-family homes when the housing market improves, Workman said.

“What we’ve discovered is high demand for student housing, “Workman said.

Workman said the architectural design that the Commission approved for Pointe West is not changing with The Pier project. “The denisty is somewhat higher, but we’re using the same setbacks,”Workman said. Commissioner Howard Moore had a few concerns about the density. “You said there would be four or five bedrooms in each cottage, are you going to have enough parking?” Moore asked. “My concern is traffic.” Workman said all those concerns have been vetted. The Oconee County Council approved a $3.5 million special source revenue bond to Workman and his partners in 2010 to help jump-start the Pointe West project. Developers ave drawn more than $1 million from the bond money for environmental clean up, engineering, and other infrastructure needs. The bond debt is being paid down from taxes generated from certain properties in the nearby Highpointe student-housing complex also owned by Workman and his partners. The $7.5 million first phase of The Pier calls for the building of 30 cottages scheduled to be ready for Clemson University’s fall semester this year.