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Walmart: Development will generate 8,700 daily car trips, study says

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The redevelopment of Pawleys Island Plaza will generate over 8,700 daily vehicle trips, most of them on Highway 17, according to a traffic study provided to the county this week as part of a rezoning request.

With the traffic study and a rendering of the big-box store that will be the centerpiece of the project, planners have all the information they need to move forward with a Sept. 20 hearing before the Georgetown County Planning Commission, said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director.

The rendering of the 119,500-square-foot building has the word “Logo” in place of an identifying sign. Although County Council members who have met with the developers individually over the last year say they were told it is a Walmart, county planning staff were told to call it an “unnamed tenant.” The submission Tuesday from Tom Massey, a partner in Sunbelt Ventures, which owns the plaza, calls it a “national retailer.” Sunbelt partners said their contract with the retailer prohibits them from mentioning the company by name.

“You hear so many people talking about that W word,” Johnson said, but not his staff.

The main tenant is important to figuring the traffic impact, said Mark Hoeweler, planning director and transportation planner at Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments. Traffic estimates are based on designating the plaza project as a shopping center, but those estimates would be higher if there was a grocery store or other uses.

Hoeweler had not seen the study Wednesday morning.

It shows the plaza, which is proposed for 147,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, creating 8,724 daily trips. But it estimates that a third of those will be from traffic already on Highway 17.

The new trips, 5,758, would add more than 20 percent to the 26,100 vehicles a day that already use Highway 17. The study estimates that the traffic will follow the current patterns, with half coming from the south, a third from the north and the balance from side streets.

“Something of the magnitude of a Walmart could change that pattern dramatically,” Hoeweler said. “I think Walmart will be their primary trip.”

The study proposes a traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 17 and Petigru Drive. The Walmart will be placed over 500 feet off the highway to avoid Georgetown County’s 45,000-square-foot cap on buildings in the “Waccamaw Neck Overlay Zone.”

Although planners and council members who have seen the proposal say the side streets – Petigru and a link on Richardson Drive to Waverly Road – should help local traffic, the study shows little increase in traffic off Highway 17.

Petigru runs through a residential neighborhood, but only 13 new trips are estimated at peak time if the Walmart is built. Little traffic is shown on Richardson.

The study also shows that traffic entering Highway 17 from the plaza at peak times will face delays. It recommends changes to the timing of the traffic light at Waverly Road to help create gaps in traffic.

The “level of service” at the Waverly light will decrease, the study shows, but still be acceptable. At peak times, traffic would have an extra 10 second wait.

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