New Steele Creek developments concern Covekeepers

Issue: Construction near The Palisades good for market, may be bad for lake

January 23, 2013 

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  • Want to know more? The Covekeepers, volunteers who work with Catawba Riverkeeper, meet the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at T-Bones on the Lake. The public is invited. For more information or to report water issue concerns, visit catawbariverkeeper.org.

— jmarks@lakewyliepilot.com

The plans aren’t new, but the progress is for several projects along N.C. 49. One group is looking to make sure Lake Wylie’s waters don’t suffer because of them.

Prior to the recession, plans were announced for new homes and school property along Steele Creek highway, across from McDowell Nature Preserve. Homes within The Palisades and a park were detailed. Since then, little happened until last week.

Now trees are coming down as Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools prepares to build an elementary school and park on more than 115 acres along the highway. The district last month announced the $12.3 million contract winner for the school, scheduled to open next year. A high school will be built there, too, later.

On the southwest side of the school property, along Grand Palisades Parkway, homebuilder Toll Brothers are beginning work for 106 home lots on almost 50 acres between Grand Palisades and Lake Wylie. The plan, approved by the county in the fall, includes an amenity center and tennis courts just beside the lake buffer.

South of the Toll Brothers project, but also off Grand Palisades, is Austin’s Creek. Rhein Medall Communities received approval last summer for 214 new homes on 90 acres. Austin’s Creek will be built by Standard Pacific Homes. The company owns more than 100 acres in the area.

While new construction could be good news for the new home market, a local environmental group hopes it isn’t bad news for the coves near The Palisades. Throughout The Palisades development, the Lake Wylie Covekeepers have been concerned about sediment running into and filling in the lake. New construction brings new concern.

“Sediment remains the No. 1 pollutant of our lake and the surrounding water ways,” said group leader Ellen Goff. “As the economy improves and construction projects start up, we’re going to face more and more of these situations.”

Covekeeper Linda McCaw heads up monitoring the lake area where the new construction sites are under way.

“From the environmental and land steward point of view, it is not the density of the community – though this affects the traffic added to (N.C.49) – it is the clearing,” McCaw said.

She’s particularly concerned with how much rainfall comes during the grading process, and how Boyds Cove and incoming tributary Studman Branch might be impacted.

Whether with the new N.C. 49 construction or work elsewhere near the lake, Goff’s group hopes to raise awareness about the effect construction can have on the lake if it isn’t properly maintained.

“It is incumbent upon all area residents to be aware of this issue, voice their intolerance of this pollution, and hold regulatory and elected officials accountable for enforcing the regulations intended to protect Lake Wylie, the Catawba River and all public water ways,” Goff said.

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