LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. - Thousands of drivers take the back way to Ballantyne and into Pineville every day. Most have no idea that the road they're using is private.
The owner of that road is threatening to shut it down unless Lancaster County, or another developer, take it over so someone else can maintain it.
It's a short, half-mile stretch of Regent Parkway, from the York County line through Indian Land to the North Carolina state line.
The people who drive through, and live in the new subdivision built by Tru Homes, were shocked to see signs pop up last week that say, "PRIVATE ROAD, NO TRESPASSING."
"Now what are we gonna do? We have to have the roads to get where we need to go," neighbor Olga Slobodenko said.
Developer Earl Coulston developed all of the area around the former Heritage USA site in Fort Mill, which was once the home of Jim Bakker's PTL Christian ministry. Much of it is now residential property along Regent Parkway.
Coulston built the stretch of road in question in 2003, and still owns it.
He had thought that one of the new communities had taken over the road years ago, but it hadn't. So Coulston has been trying to get Lancaster County to accept the road into its system so he would not be responsible for the maintenance.
Coulston sent Channel 9 a copy of the letter he wrote in May, asking Lancaster County to take over the road. In the letter, he told the county that if another entity didn't take over the road in 90 days, he would close it.
Lancaster County leaders responded, saying they would not take the road.
Coulston told Channel 9 that drivers have complained about hitting potholes and demanded that he fix the road.
He sent Channel 9 an email in response to our questions about those "no trespassing" signs.
Here is that complete statement:
"In May of 2017 we requested that either Lancaster County or the developer of the subdivisions on either side of the road take ownership of the roadway, as our companies have had no interest or involvement since 2011. In 2011 affiliated companies with homebuilder True Homes purchased and developed the now existing neighborhoods. (See attached letter). Lancaster County's attorney, Mr. Weaver, sent a response that the county had no interest in the roadway or what actions (including road closure) we took going forward (also attached).
The notice signs have came about as a result of the public, on more than one occasion, rudely addressing our office staff members in regard to road conditions. We decided for the protection of our employees and our businesses it was important for the homeowners and the general public to be aware they are traveling on a private road for which they have received no authorization or right to use.
We have never at any time prevented or blocked the state or county from repairing or maintaining the roadways, however we will not do so at our own expense. The costs and expenses of maintenance should fall at the expense of the county that collects tax money from homeowners, or at least the HOA that is established and whose homeowners utilize the roadways as entry to their communities and homes.
Our desire is, as it always has been, that the County or State will take over the road and we no longer be associated or have any further interests in it. We are unwilling to invest any of our own funds to the roadway, and while we hope it does not become a necessity, we are prepared as a final resort to close the road as it is in our legal rights to do so."
Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes, who represents the Indian Land area, has heard an earful from concerned neighbors.
"We're treading on thin ice, and this in waters that have never been navigated before," Carnes said.
He said not only is this uncharted territory, but said the road is substandard, so it can't be accepted into the county system. He said the county would have to make an exception to take in the road as it is.
"Trying to find out how to make it work within the context of what we need to work in is the tricky part," Carnes said.
Coulston told Channel 9 that the road met all the standards when it was built 15 years ago, but he's not putting any money into it now and wants to be rid of it.
Local and state leaders are now taking notice, but a decision on what to do now has not been made.
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