Proposal calls for dredging pond and taking steps to prevent erosion; developer hopes to build homes on mill site
A good crowd of Buffalo residents came out for a town meeting Thursday night. They met to hear the county’s proposal for renovating the Buffalo mill pond area and to hear about the potential for redeveloping the site of the old Buffalo Mill. Supervisor Frank Hart moderated the meeting.
The crowd heard from Public Works Director Rusty Snider on the work that is being proposed to the Buffalo Mill Pond area. Snider said the first step will be to dredge the pond, as a lot of silt and sediment has built up over the past 12 or so years since it was last dredged. They then have to address the incoming stream to try and stop some of that sediment from flowing into the pond. After that, they are looking to shore up the shoreline, as there are lots of areas where it drops off from the trail. The idea is to prevent erosion around the whole pond area. They then have to redo the trail, which will include repaving, relocating the northeast section to move it away from the pond, and to replace the bridge. He said the proposal they have received from an engineering firm has a good plan to address those areas of concern. Supervisor Frank Hart said an environmental study had previously been done on the pond, and there are no environmental issues that were raised from the study.
Angela Kirkpatrick with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments said she is helping the county apply for a $600,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, which infrastructure legislation just allowed Union County to become a part of after being passed over 50 years ago or so when the commission was just formed. The grant requires a 30% local match, which Kirkpatrick said the county council has already approved. The local match comes up to $180,000. The application is due by March 1st, and she said they won’t know for 4-5 months after that if the county received the grant or not. She said the community turnout for the meeting was a key part of showing community involvement in the project.
Brad Skelton with Red Oak Developers also addressed the attendees. Skelton specializes in redeveloping textile communities. He noted there are special tax incentives that encourage such redevelopment, and he has had success in helping to redevelop several mill sites in the state. He said when first arriving on the property, he was blown away by the beauty and condition of the two spires, which were left standing after the rest of the mill was torn down. He said there was nothing like that in any of the six mill sites he has done. He said the existing infrastructure in the mill village is a key component of being able to come in and rehabilitate sites. The infrastructure is already in place in the Buffalo Mill village. He also said the clean environmentals at the pond was a huge asset, as well. That will allow for recreational activity and revitalization to come, which he said adds value and can help to bring in residents.
The scope of what he will be able to do is limited by DHEC. Another environmental study will have to be done on the dirt at the mill site. What is found will determine what can be built. He said developers will not pour millions of dollars into cleaning up the dirt, but they will work with what they have. He said his vision at the moment is to build single-family town homes that mimic the classic style of the mill houses. One thing he says has happened at the sites he has redeveloped is that flippers will begin coming in and buying and fixing up some of the existing dilapidated houses to resell, which will further revitalize the area and make it a little nicer.
WBCU News spoke to Skelton about his thoughts on the meeting and what happens next:
(audio below story)
Most of the meeting was devoted to hearing from the community members as to what they wanted to see happen to the area, and the citizens there had plenty to say. We’ll cover that part of the meeting in Monday’s newscast.