Fort Mill grows, but this time it’s not residential

The Goddard School on Gold Hill Road, off Pleasant Road, across from Publix in Fort Mill.

FORT MILL — The town is extending its footprint a little closer to the Lancaster County line, but residents wary of a new subdivision don’t have to fret.

Fort Mill Town Council voted unanimously Jan. 14 to approve second reading of a proposed annexation of 4.1 acres on North Dobys Bridge Road. The property, under York County jurisdiction until it formally comes into Fort Mill town limits, is the future site of the area’s second Goddard School. A national leader in early childhood development, the school has been operating a facility across from Publix near the intersection of Pleasant and Gold Hill roads.

The town is also getting a small park as part of the deal.

Bill Strickland, who co-owns the Goddard School at 868 Gold Hill Road with his wife Amy Strickland, said the North Dobys Bridge Road property was a good fit for another facility for several reasons.

“We have 20 to 25 families from that area (with children at the Gold Hill Road Goddard School),” he said. Also, “our existing school is full.”

In fact, there’s a waiting list at the existing school until June 2020. So, it appears the law of supply and demand is at play. New residents — mostly young families — continue to pour into Fort Mill, including the areas outside town limits. Growth in nearby Tega Cay also continues to surge as new subdivisions come online.

 “Part of it is the growth in Fort Mill and some of it is the reputation of the school,” Bill Strickland said.

  South Carolina doesn’t require preschool teachers to be college educated.

 “We exceed those standards by quite a bit,” Strickland said. “Most of our teachers have a four-year degree and some are working on masters degrees.”

Strickland, whose previous career was in IT — Amy has always been in education, he said — said most Goddard students “are ready to test for first grade” by the time they leave the program. Now, Goddard is upping its game, he said, as one of five pilot schools for accreditation for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) early learning.

“The Goddard School should provide a much needed preschool option to Fort Mill, Town Manager Davy Broom said.

The Stricklands have not yet decided if the new facility will offer an after-school program, so stay tuned. If it does, it would most likely serve Doby’s Bridge and Riverview elementary schools and a new school planned for the area, Bill Strickland said.

One of the main advantages of requesting annexation into Fort Mill town limits is access to the existing water and sewer system, he said. One of the benefits to the town is a .6-acre parcel on the site that will be gifted to the public and turned into a park.

“Council did a good job of balancing it,” Strickland said. “It  meets the needs of residents in a controlled fashion. We told them want to be a good community neighbor. We’ll make sure it’s buffered and preserve the integrity of the neighborhood.”

All things considered, it’s a low-impact addition to the community, Strickland said.

For example, “We don’t sell liquor; We don’t operate at night,” he said.

Fort Mill Town Councilman Chris Moody, whose Ward 4 will extend to the annexed property, also sees it as a good fit.

“I feel that the Goddard school will provide child care options to many families who live in the Doby’s Bridge Corridor of Fort Mill, who would have otherwise been taking children across town to a different location,” he said. 

“The school will help grow our commercial tax base, which is always a good thing.  The traffic impact analysis (TIA) that was presented to council, made me feel more comfortable in supporting the annexation request.” 

As for the park, a specific plan is pending.

“Our town staff will review the site to determine the best use for the area,” Broom said.