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Walmart: Review will focus on traffic and design

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The Georgetown County planning staff is awaiting two more pieces of information to start its review of plans to redevelop Pawleys Island Plaza: a traffic study and a rendering of the 119,500-square-foot building that will be its central feature.

The rendering of the building that county officials say will be a Walmart is due Friday. The traffic study will take a couple of weeks longer. It’s being prepared by the same engineers who are working on a plan to eliminate the paved median on a portion of Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area.

Both are important considerations, said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director.

“From my perspective, aesthetics is going to be important,” he said. “Dad gum it, a lot of it comes down to making it look good, making it classy.”

Sunbelt Ventures needs county approval for the project because it is a change to an existing “planned development” zoning district. The company wants to expand the development from 10 to 17 acres and increase the amount of space.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the request in September. A hearing in 2005 on a plan to build a 137,000 square foot Lowe’s Home Improvement Center on Highway 17 at the South Causeway drew a capacity crowd to the 1,000-seat Howard Auditorium in Georgetown. Johnson said he’s already considering the 650-seat auditorium at Waccamaw High for the Walmart hearing.

Because the footprint of the Walmart is more than 500 feet from Highway 17, it isn’t affected by the county’s 45,000-square-foot limit on commercial buildings along the highway. “From a legal perspective, they are all right,” Johnson said.

The plan also calls for eight residential lots, made necessary by a state Supreme Court ruling that requires planned development to have a mix of uses.

The traffic engineers, Stantec, will evaluate the impact on the roads. The plan calls for Richardson Drive, currently a dirt road, to be improved between Waverly Road and the site. A traffic light is proposed for Highway 17 and Petigru Drive.

There are also two entrances on the highway, where additional retail space is proposed.

“Diluting [traffic] away from 17 is a good idea,” Johnson said. “I would suspect a Walmart at that location would be a busy store.”

The plan calls for stormwater to be stored underground rather than in open ponds. The pond at the center now will become a building site if the plan is approved.

Johnson said he will talk with Sunbelt about using pervious paving and landscaping in the parking lot. “There are a lot of reasons not to have massive parking lots,” he said.

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