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Walmart: Planners still waiting for big-box drawings

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Two key pieces of the application for a zoning change at Pawleys Island Plaza that would allow a Walmart are still missing, and if they aren’t filed within the week a hearing on the proposal will have to be delayed, according to the county planning director.

Boyd Johnson said he is still waiting for drawings of the 119,500-square-foot building that will be the centerpiece of the proposed redevelopment. “We don’t have that, we don’t have the traffic study,” he said.

Sunbelt Ventures applied this month for permission to expand the area of the shopping center’s “planned development” by 5.3 acres and increase the amount of building space from the current 100,600 square feet to 146,900 square feet.

The main building is 500 feet from Highway 17 so it falls outside the county’s “overlay zone” where there is a 45,000-square-foot limit on the size of a single building.

The changes require a hearing by the county Planning Commission and approval from County Council.

Dusty Wiederhold, a principal in Sunbelt, said this week he doesn’t anticipate any delay in the public hearing. The elevation drawings for the main building haven’t been received, but “we continue to meet with county officials and the private sector,” he said.

Sunbelt plans to lease the main store to a tenant whom Wiederhold said he is unable to name because of restrictions in his contract. County officials say they have been told it is Walmart.

Johnson said the planning staff no longer refers to the project as Walmart, “on orders from higher up.”

In fairness, he said, Walmart isn’t named on any of the documents submitted. It’s now the “unnamed tenant,” he said.

“At some point a tenant has to be identified for planning purposes,” Johnson said. “It’s not their intention to go to the Planning Commission and not identify the tenant.”

The building elevations wouldn’t necessarily include the name of the tenant, he added. “We can do the full plan review whether it’s Walmart, Kmart or Bass Pro Shops,” Johnson said.

But traffic is another issue.

Sunbelt has proposed a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 17 and Petigru Drive. A Walmart would meet state criteria for a signal based on the volume of traffic it would generate, Johnson said. Other stores may not.

Wiederhold said the traffic study was completed this week by Stantec, an engineering firm that is also working with the state Department of Transportation on a highway median project in the area.

“We’ve seen the summary, but not the final report,” he said.

After reviewing the final report, it will be submitted to the county, he said.

Wiederhold said he wasn’t aware of a specific deadline for turning in the additional information.

Johnson said he wants to have it before notices of the zoning change are mailed out to adjacent property owners next week. He wants to avoid advertising the hearing, then canceling it.

The county has reserved the 600-seat auditorium at Waccamaw High School for the Sept. 20 hearing. “We don’t want to go in there with a half-done staff report,” Johnson said. “If we don’t get [the additional information] pretty quick, we will recommend they defer.”

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