Yonder Field Wiles

Bruce Wiles, a resident of Homestead Road, says the planned Yonder Field concert venue will have an adverse effect on his way of life.

LARRY HARDY,T&D

A field of dreams?

For some neighbors, the proposed Bowman Yonder Field multifunctional concert and festival space is feared to be a nightmare.

"Our way of life here in the country is being impacted by big money and others who do not live here," said Pam McArthur, a neighbor to the project, via email correspondence. "They will not have to deal with the inconveniences or interruptions to their lives. We will. My neighbors and families will. It will change the community that my family has called home for over 125 years."

The proposed 228-acre outdoor venue off Log Cabin Road, called Yonder Field, will host concerts, shows and festivals complete with multiple stages. Log Cabin Road is off Homestead Road and Timrod Lane north of Bowman and just off Interstate 26.

The proposal is to bring about 10 to 15 shows a year, with plans to draw about 30,000 individuals per concert.

Currently, there are no houses on Log Cabin Road as a portion of the road is paved and a portion is dirt. Farmland and woods line both sides of the road. There are three houses on Timrod Lane near the Homestead Road intersection.

There are a number of houses on Homestead Road and Indian Road as well as other surrounding roads.

McArthur is not the only one concerned.

About 20 neighbors to Yonder Field appeared before Orangeburg County Council to voice their concerns about traffic, noise, alcohol, emergency response, safety, security, environmental impact, litter, sanitation, quality of life and property value and tax changes.

Emergency response

Homestead Road resident Jimmy Padgett, who serves as a volunteer fire chief with the West Middle Fire Department, is concerned about the venue's impact on emergency response.

"We are worried about traffic accidents, abandoned vehicles, vehicle stalls, people parking in our driveways, yards, and alongside our roads," Padgett said. "We are very concerned about trespasser situations and the possibility attendees, who may be intoxicated, may come into our yards on our neighboring properties also while our children are playing in our yards."

Padgett said the county is already stretched in emergency response.

"How will Orangeburg County handle the increased safety and security needs and also continue to respond to emergencies in other parts of the community and the county?" Padgett said. "Will there be additional security provided for our area during these events? How will ambulances, fire trucks and patrol cars manage to reach our homes in the event we have an emergency?"

Traffic

Patti Padgett, who also lives on Homestead Road, said she is concerned about traffic and how the area's road infrastructure will be able to handle the influx of vehicles.

"Roads used to enter the venue are two-lane roads," Padgett said. "There are no turn lanes, traffic lights or medians. Many connecting roads along with roads from all directions will have heavy, heavy congestion. There could be people driving intoxicated."

Padgett also said traffic at times will be at a standstill because of concert crowds.

"How are citizens expected to come and go from our homes to work, to go to church  and to get to the doctor if we need to?" Patti Padgett said.

Noise

Bruce Wiles, who lives on Homestead Road right across from Log Cabin Road, is concerned about the noise.

"Is there a noise ordinance in Orangeburg County and who is going to enforce the noise ordinance?" Wiles said, noting he has worked around jet engines his entire life and already needs a hearing aid.

He said the concerts likely will produce noise levels as high as 110 decibels. "There are a lot of veterans all over the county. A lot of veterans have PTSD. How does that affect them? A lot of them can't take noise, can't take explosions if they fire fireworks and stuff like that."

Wiles wondered if the county's noise ordinance even takes into consideration outdoor concert venues.

"How many calls will you take and ya'll will start getting irritated from us calling because our windows are shaking and our dogs are howling?" Wiles said.

Wiles later noted that he understands the desire for people to bring entertainment opportunities to the Orangeburg area.

"Why don't they put it in Orangeburg vs. coming out here and disrupting our lifestyle we have had for five generations?" he said. "Why are we citizens of this community having to put up with noise that we don't have right now. It is like County Council members, they say, 'We want it here.'

"Well tell them to put it in their back yards and see how they like it. Would they like it in their front yard or their back yard? No! That is why they want it out here to bother our behind."

Homestead Road resident Margaret Baylor has lived in the neighborhood for 60 years. She is 82.

She too is concerned about the noise.

Baylor said sometimes young people down the road will play loud music during the holidays.

"You can hear it in the night when you go to bed," she said. "It is like in your bedroom. I said if something like that is coming here, it is terrible not only for the loud sound but for people coming in and you don't know who they are. You are in your bed and you don't know what is happening."

Environmental impact

Janice Wiles says she is also concerned about the environmental impact of the project on wetlands and wildlife, as well as its impact on property values and taxes.

"We have a lot of farmers that farm the area," Janice said. "How are they going to be able to access roads with heavy equipment when traffic is at a standstill?"

Janice said there are also hunters in the area, noting some neighbors have specifically purchased property in the area for its hunting perks.

"Are they still going to be allowed to hunt?" Janice said. "We are concerned that bullets may be going through the area. They are very concerned that their rights to hunt are going to be impacted by somebody's right to have a party."

Janice said she is also concerned about wildlife being displaced and how the project will take away everything neighbors "hold dear to our hearts."

"There are numerous trees that have been totally taken out of this area," she said. "I am wondering if there is any way we can require an environmental impact study from the person that is getting this done up."

Janice is also wondering about a wetlands study.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the department had not received any permit application from Yonder Field through Jan. 20.

Property values and taxes

Janice also wondered who will want to purchase their property with the expected noise.

"Who is going to want to buy our houses if we have to move?" Janice said. "Nobody is going to buy what I am running away from."

"Are taxes going up?" Janice said. "I already pay a lot of taxes."

Quality of life

Neighbor Andrew Robinson said he is concerned about the venue upsetting the 'little, quiet, residential neighborhood.'

"To entertain more than 30,000 people is more than we put in a football stadium," he said. "How are we going to live in that neighborhood? What are we supposed to do?"

"Is council concerned about the people of Orangeburg County in that area?" Robinson said.

Robinson said he is one of the veterans with PTSD.

"I don't go to football games or basketball games or anything. I can't stand the noise," he said. "I am not a midnight rider. I stay home. I go to church, come back and maintain my own business."

Lack of knowledge

Homestead Road resident William Boes asked County Council about notification.

"Why were we not informed earlier by our elected representatives that something like this was in the works?" Boes said. "How could you not ask the people who elect you and that you represent that something is going to change this community so enormously. We had to find out through Facebook. We elect you thinking you ought to know what is going on."

Baylor, too, says no one seems to know anything about the project.

"Why don't we know?" she said. "I did not know about it until a week or two weeks ago."

"For the record, nobody has ever approached council about this project," Councilman Harry Wimberly said. "They still have not approached council."

Yet some neighbors noted that the owner of Yonder Field had scheduled a meeting with council in closed session, saying there had to have been some contact with the company prior to the public complaints being voiced.

Council hears concerns

County Councilman Willie B. Owens addressed those with concerns, noting that "all of you anticipate the worst from this project."

"None of you anticipate the best," Owens said. "I have lived in that world for years and know what it feels like to be looked upon as the worst and not the best."

Owens encouraged people to remember when Walt Disney wanted to come to Santee.

"The greatest concern from that is that we don't want no amusement center in South Carolina," Owens said. "How many of you have been down to Walt Disney? How much money do you spend going down there? I am not criticizing you, but how many of you go to Clemson games and sit in the stadium with 80,000 people?"

Owens noted University of South Carolina football games also have an 80,000 attendance.

"I would anticipate if such a project comes to this county, they will make the necessary arrangements to take care of the problems that may exist," Owens said. "County Council can be a part to see if it does come that the necessary things that need to be taken care of are taken care of. We have not been notified properly yet.

"But you can bet your bottom dollar that we are part of Orangeburg County and we are just as concerned as any person who lives next to the project."

 Orangeburg County Councilman Johnny Ravenell said council will watch out for county residents.

"If it does come, it has to have barriers," Ravenell said. "When I say barriers, I am talking about noise barriers to curtail the noise."

Ravenell, whose district includes the project, said he is aware of Yonder Field and, at first, was for it due to its potential to help with economic development.

"But as time goes on, I am getting concerns from my constituents," he said. "They are concerned about what type of people are going to be migrating into the area. What I mean by the type of people is the type of activities."

For instance, he says one of his constituents has a teenager and is concerned about the type of language the teenager will hear from the music being played.

"Noise travels like everything else," Ravenell said.

Ravenell believes the project could be a good thing, but he is reserving judgment until more information is brought forward.

"We have to take care of home people prior to people coming in from abroad," he said.

Wimberly also reserved judgment on the project as he wants to "find out what they want to do" first hand.

"It is a good-sized project," he said. "Hopefully it does not upset the surrounding community."

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson declined comment on the project "at this time."

Not all opposed

Homestead Road resident Monica Melinder, who lives just down the road from the proposed venue, expressed support.

"We thought it was a big plant coming by," she said. "We could probably hear it from here. I don't object to it. Stuff like that don't bother me."

Melinder said there may be traffic and "it won't be our quiet little area anymore," but the 59-year old looks at the project as a positive for the "new generation."

"My fun time is gone," she said, adding that she is happy it is a musical venue. "I love music. I like gospel music. I had my fun. Let them have theirs."

When Melinder was informed the project could bring some big musical names and artists to the area, she expressed her excitement about the prospect.

"What? Right in my area!" Melinder said, adding that she is not opposed to people having fun. "As long as there is no drug dealing, I have don't have a problem with it."

Patten Seed Company, the parent company of SuperSod that helped Yonder secure the plot of land, is assisting with the placement and maintenance of the greenery. Patten also offers an additional 305 acres of farm for Yonder’s larger events.

Patten Seed Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Roquemore said he does not agree with the concerns.

"I can't imagine it will affect wildlife," Roquemore said, noting the land is already tilled with tractors and other farm equipment that also make noise. "There will be traffic and congestion, but it will be like the fair or coon hunters."

Roquemore said the property is "just about as far in the boondocks as one can find.

He said he will live about two miles from the venue.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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