Listen closely. You can hear it at The Coves on River Oaks. No, not the muted bustle of masons, surveyors, craftsmen, custom builders and subcontractors. It’s the sound of an economic rebound in progress.
For Tom Smith, it’s sweet music indeed.
Smith, a partner in May Green Properties with his father, Tim Smith, and John Sarrough, sounds positive that the recession that all but shuttered the housing industry is ending. “We’ve all been sleeping in the bear’s den for a while,” he says. “We’re all coming back out.”
The veteran developer, who helped create the Lake Wylie communities of Patrick Place, Campbell’s Crossing, The Timbers and Vander Lake, among others, says he’s seen a resurgence in land sales and custom-home construction, particularly at The Coves on River Oaks and nearby Carolina Coves.
Smith and his father experienced the local boom firsthand. “We were out here when there wasn’t much in the Lake Wylie area,” he says. Previously, the Smiths worked with Homestead Land & Timber Company. They established May Green Properties in 2000, along the way building a solid working relationship with York Electric Cooperative, which serves 12 of their 15 developments.
“It’s nice because the guys that have been with York Electric have been there for years,” he says. “It’s just good to see familiar faces.”
What Smith doesn’t see— overhead power lines—is part of what he gets from YEC. The May Green vision—”to create low-density, environmentally sensitive communities which provide property owners aesthetic satisfaction and economic appreciation through thoughtful planning and good stewardship of the land”—is enhanced by YEC underground service.
The co-op built a 2.5- mile line along River Oaks Drive, an investment Smith says has paid off: “A lot of people love this area because there are no overhead lines.”
Cooperation, in a general sense, has been just as key to the current rebound, he says. Smith credits the support of associates including CWD Construction, Inc., M.J. Palmer Construction Co., and Kuhlkin Builders, Inc., among others, as well as a host of able subcontractors and, crucially, the people at South Carolina Bank and Trust (SCBT).
Cooperation at work
The teamwork yields good jobs for folks around the area. “We’ve used as many local people as possible,” Smith notes. Custom builder Chuck Dohm of CWD Construction agrees: “I bet 90 percent or more of the subcontractors are York County guys.” The current resurgence is good for everybody’s bottom line, Dohm says. “We’re putting people back to work, that’s for sure.”
Another custom builder, Mike Palmer of M.J. Palmer Construction Co., agrees. “There is a lot of activity. Things are coming back to life,” Palmer says. “It was eerily quiet for a while. The phone wasn’t ringing.”
Palmer, who has built homes in most May Green developments, notes, “I’ve got four projects going on in York County now. One is a home that was put on hold for a number of years.”
He adds, “I think things are better than a lot of people think they are. And I think people are tired of sitting on the sidelines.”
A 3,600-square-foot home Palmer is building at The Coves on River Oaks is typical of the kinds of projects May Green Properties attract. “This house, the couple really couldn’t find anything out there on the market like what they needed, so they decided to build custom,” he says. “They really fell in love with the lay of the land over here and the size of the lot.”
May Green tracts are typically large enough for the primary home, additional garage, pool, pool house or tennis court if desired—and soon, Smith notes, even a “mother-in-law suite,” or separate, secondary home, in some developments.
Palmer says home buyers are moving farther outside of Charlotte, many recognizing that property values are often better in South Carolina. The availability of financing from SCBT for projects like Palmer’s helps attract buyers.
SCBT has also helped May Green finance road construction. “Those guys came in after we pooled our money and scratched and clawed and made it through the worst times,” Smith says. “We came up with enough money for half and then they came in.” Strong initial sales since opening The Coves on River Oaks in October—six new homes under construction and 11 lot sales—will give the bank a quick payback, he notes.
SCBT’s senior vice president of commercial banking, Kevin Blackwood, says, “It’s been a pleasure to help the Smiths and May Green Properties welcome new residents to York County.”
A former county council member, Smith anticipates continued, steady growth around Lake Wylie, an unincorporated area he likens to a town. He says Pole Branch Road will be widened; he also expects community ball fields to be constructed nearby soon.
Committed to quality
Even with growth, Smith remains focused on preserving the area’s natural beauty with the green space corridors, walking trails and quiet parks for which May Green developments are known. In addition to environmental preservation, he says, the company is committed to using local builders and contractors, with continued emphasis on high-quality construction. That includes his tapping YEC’s expertise with outdoor lighting and underground service, of course.
As Smith knows, when you’re clawing your way out of a “bear’s den” of a recession, familiar faces are a comfort indeed.
“It’s been a truly local cooperative effort to get back,” he says.
For more information, access MayGreenLLC.com or call (803) 631-4136.
By Walter Allread