Farmers, residents organize at Polk-Rutherford line to stop giant homebuilder

Published 11:59 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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*this article has been updated to clarify ordinances in Polk County

Enchanted Homes of Spartanburg, S.C., wants to build 60 single-family homes on 30 acres in the southwest corner of Rutherford County where it meets Green Creek in Polk County, an almost exclusively farming community.

When word of the plan leaked out, farmers and residents were stunned and soon began organizing to stop the project.

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The parcel has produced crops, mostly hay, for decades, but North Carolina farmland is now disappearing at the second highest rate in the nation, and the owner’s sale listing caught the eye of a huge Spartanburg County developer.

“There are a multitude of concerns about the proposed development,” said Jon Klimstra, who, along with his wife Brittany, operates TK Family Farm, a large apple-growing and processing farm across the road in Polk County.

“First is the loss of the rural characteristics and predominantly agricultural landscape,” Klimstra said.

Danny Searcy, director of the Rutherford County Planning Department, said he received an email from the builder about the project, but no official application to develop the property has yet been filed.

“We don’t have a single stitch of anything official or an application or anything,” Searcy said. “The planning office has heard the rumors and rumblings, but we have not received anything official–no submittal about a residential development there.”

Property records show the 30.8 acres are owned by Terry W. Shields and his sister, Emily D. Yelton, of Green Creek. Their late father was a farmer and once owned Green Creek Farm Supply. The website Trulia shows the land is listed for sale at $461,850 and that a sale is pending.

A large development on such small lots would be extremely difficult because no public sewer or water lines are in the immediate rural area. In addition, the state and county Watershed Protection Ordinance would likely be violated.

Dense housing developments have been spreading our way from Greenville, Spartanburg, Greer, Boiling Springs and Chesnee for the past few years as demand for housing increased.

Rutherford County, where TK Family Farm is located, protects farmland from being converted to a residential subdivision, although Polk County restricts such developments to five-acre lots. It should be noted, the development as proposed would not be allowed in Polk County.

The situation is troubling to Karen Pack, a Polk County farmland owner with her husband Kevin, who is running a campaign to be elected to the Polk County Board of Commissioners. Pack previously spearheaded an effort to stop a massive North Carolina Department of Transportation Highway 9 widening project that would wind through countless farms and residences. The project has not been launched.

“I think we need to have discussions about how we want Polk County to look in the future,” she said. “We have to get on the same page and find incentives for landowners to want to protect our land for our future generations. Our rural and agricultural lands are diminishing across the country. My biggest fear is that Polk County is giving in to the pressures of this urban sprawl heading our way.”

She wants to hold the county to its official “20/20 Vision Plan,” adopted by commissioners in 2010. The plan states that the county’s “rural atmosphere and serene natural beauty will be vigorously protected.”

When told that residents were determined to stop the plan, Ryan Crooker, vice president of Enchanted Homes, said, “This seems like a very controversial topic right now. We don’t know which way we are going with this piece of property,” he said, declining to answer questions.

Enchanted is now building single-family homes 10 miles away from Green Creek in Chesnee, S.C., where it lists a 1,368-square-foot home for $259,000.

North Carolina is projected to lose 1.2 million acres of farmland over the next 15 years.

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at