Project to bring lakefront resort to Lexington is over

By Kailee Kokes and Jordan Lawrence
Posted 7/19/23

Smallwood Cove appears to be dead.

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Project to bring lakefront resort to Lexington is over


Smallwood Cove appears to be dead.

The Town of Lexington announced late in the afternoon July 19 that the parties who own the land for the proposed lakefront resort near Lake Murray, set to encompass nearly 94 acres, have withdrawn their consideration to annex all parcels along with their application for zoning and a proposed development agreement.

“As a result, the previously submitted proposal will receive no further consideration from the Planning Commission or Lexington Town Council,” the release states.

A provided letter from lawyer Greg Bullwinkel, representing Kendrick Cove, LLC; Edisto Cove, LLC; Smallwood Cove, LLC; and Kendrick Cove II, LLC; confirms the entities have withdrawn from the applications and agreements related to the project.

"The landowner has enjoyed Lake Murray for more than 80 years and only wants the best for the community,” Bullwinkel said in a provided statement. “Regrettably, the annexation and zoning process has overshadowed the thoughtful plans that would have opened up community access to this beautiful location. My client has elected to withdraw annexation and rezoning efforts at this time."

The development was set to occupy a spot off North Lake Drive just south of the Lake Murray Dam on the Lexington side of the reservoir.

“We certainly were open to trying to see if there was a project that would meet the owners desires and needs as well as provide a benefit to the town in the construct of also being responsible in the development,” Council Member Todd Lyle said. “We were initially presented with something that was far above and beyond what we could stomach and we were hoping that we could work together and come somewhere in the middle.”

Lyle told the Chronicle that it looks like the property owners reacted very aggressively with the full withdrawal of consent.

“That seemed to be a little bit of punitive anger,” he said. “At least that's the tone I got out of it. Which is unfortunate, because it really could have been a good project."

Council Member Todd Carnes echoed Lyle, saying there are no further steps for the town to take to get the project going again unless the property owners again request annexation.

Council Member Gavin Smith, who won election the day after the project's announcement, told the Chronicle that he is disappointed in how this was handled by Town Council and that it has been eye opening as a new member. He added that he first became aware of the project after his election.

“We are elected to put the best interests of the people first, to be good stewards of their tax dollars, their resources, and I don't feel as though those resources and those dollars have been put to the best use,” he said. “So moving forward, I hope that we as council can learn from this experience and work together to ensure that the taxpayers' resources and dollars can best be used in the future so that we can work together for the best outcomes of the community.”

Council Member Ron Williams expressed disappointment that the town and the property owners couldn't "create a solution that would have been enjoyed and supported by all of Lexington."

Backlash against the project was intense and immediate after it was announced at a Town Council meeting in early May, at which Mayor Steve MacDougall calling it the largest development Lexington would ever see.

The mayor didn’t immediately respond to the Chronicle’s request for comment.

Many in the area expressed concern over the potential impacts from the project, which was set to bring a marina, retail spaces, hotels, restaurants, living spaces and a conference center for which the town would have kicked in $30 million.

According to Lyle, the town will have to figure out what to do regarding the conference center, mentioning that $16 million allocated from the state was designated for a meeting space.

Lyle said that if the money is not used for that it must be returned to the state.

Key among the public concerns with Smallwood Cove was traffic, with Town Council having recently approved a new traffic study for the area to address roadways some said should have been included in a previous traffic study commissioned by the property owners.

The uproar over the development led to an unprecedented joint work session last week between Town Council and Lexington County Council, where the two bodies discussed numerous issues with the project, including traffic, the legality of annexing property non-contiguous to the town and the environmental impact to the lake.

A key group organizing residents disgruntled by the project was Develop Lexington County Responsibly, which circulated a petition pushing for transparency about the project and the impact it would have and rallied members of the public to attend meetings covering aspects of the Small Cove development.

In a statement provided to the Chronicle, the group gave credit to Town and County Council members for listening to citizens’ concerns and to citizens for making their voices heard.

“One positive development that has come out of this is the Town Council and County Council have started an open dialogue by holding the first ever joint work session,” the group said. “With increased development it is imperative that our town councils work together with our county council to protect our home  in Lexington county from overdevelopment.”

“It is important for citizens to speak up,” the group added, calling the outcome “proof that when we collectively work together our voices can be heard for the betterment of our communities, infrastructure, and future.”

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.

lake murary development, lakefront resort, smallwood cove, mayor steve macdougall, columbia business


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