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Waccamaw Library: Land deal reopens debate over roads

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A land deal that will provide Georgetown County with 4 acres on Willbrook Boulevard for a new Waccamaw Neck library includes a provision that will ensure traffic to the nearby Waccamaw Intermediate and Waccamaw Middle schools can make a left turn from Willbrook Boulevard.

The Georgetown County School Board, which owns the proposed library site, approved the land swap this week. It now goes to Georgetown County Council for approval.

Property owners associations within Willbrook Plantation negotiated a left-turn restriction from Willbrook Boulevard to Wildcat Way when the intermediate school was built. They said adding school traffic to residential and golf traffic along the road would reduce safety. The intersection is now limited to right-in, right-out traffic. School buses use an access to the intermediate school off St. Paul Place, which allows left and right turns and is aligned with the Mingo commercial complex.

“Our position has not changed,” said Bill Renault, a member of the Tradition Club association who was involved in the earlier talks with the school board. “Nothing’s changed about the safety aspect.”

Property owners support the library project, he added. “We think it’s a wonderful thing.”

The agreement approved by the school board requires the county to develop an access plan in the final design for the library that allows right and left turns from Willbrook Boulevard.

County Council Member Jerry Oakley said that plan will take traffic onto St. Paul Place, which also serves Midway Fire and Rescue’s headquarters station.

“There are no left turns contemplated at the Wildcat Way connection to Willbrook,” he said.

In 2008, the school district agreed to give the county 1 acre on Willbrook Boulevard for the library and 1 acre for shared parking in exchange for three road projects that improved access to the schools. Last year, the county changed its plans for the library from two stories to one and asked the district for additional property. The county plans to break ground on the library in September.

Access was also on the mind of Dwight McInvaill, the library director, when he spoke to the school board. The new branch “will be much more accessible than ever before to a great many students,” he said. “We think this is going to be a wonderful coexistence.

The deal approved by the school board this week swaps the 4 acres on Willbrook Boulevard for 7.3 acres between the intermediate and middle schools. The schools are on property the county acquired from Brookgreen Gardens through an uncontested condemnation. The school district shared the cost and got land for the middle school. The county planned to use the remaining property for a park.

The park was never built, and the district asked for another 20.5 acres for the intermediate school. The county received long-term leases on school sites around the county for recreation in exchange. The school district bought the 4-acre tract along Willbrook Boulevard in 2006 for $1.75 million to provide access to the intermediate school.

“We’re getting a little bit more [land], but the roadside property might have a little more value,” Superintendent Randy Dozier told the school board.

The deal also requires the county to accept title to Wildcat Way, which runs between Willbrook Boulevard and Reunion Drive and serves both schools. “I really don’t think we ought to be in the road business,” Dozier said.

The property that the school district will acquire straddles Wildcat Way. A portion of it is already being used by the school for a ballfield.

The county’s plans for park facilities on the remainder of the 7.3 acres show a walking trail and picnic shelters. It’s adjacent to property that is still owned by Brookgreen Gardens and its use is limited because there are endangered red-cockaded woodpecker nesting sites on the Brookgreen property.

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