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Pawleys Plaza: Developer abandons plans for big-box store

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Sunbelt Ventures has asked Georgetown County Council to delay action until January on its request for approval to redevelop Pawleys Island Plaza. The developer, which acquired the property this year, said in a letter to the council that it has abandoned its plan for a big-box store.

The council this month gave the first of three readings to the request, which calls for adding a 119,500-square-foot building on additional property behind the existing center. New retail space with a Lowcountry design would be built along Highway 17. The main building of the existing center would be torn down and become parking for the proposed big-box retailer.

The project was opposed by area residents who said it violated the county limit on commercial building size. In a “planned development” such as the plaza, the limit is 60,000 square feet.

The Planning Commission voted in September to recommend the county approve the plan, but require the project to adhere to the size limit and county design standards.

Dusty Wiederhold, a partner in Sunbelt, said they are still working to revise the plan, and hope to retain the ability to build an 84,000-square-foot retail space based on a 2008 plan approved by the county for the previous owner.

But he said in a letter to the county on Wednesday that Sunbelt plans to comply with the standards in the “overlay zone” along Highway 17.

The council routinely approves zoning requests on the first of their three required readings. Discussion takes place at the second reading, which would have taken place Dec. 11.

Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said he wasn’t surprised by Sunbelt’s request. Any change to the plan would require review by the planning staff.

He has told Sunbelt the 84,000-square-foot building approved in 2008 would only be allowed if it was built according to the 2008 plan.

Wiederhold said Sunbelt’s attorneys are reviewing that issue.

Don’t Box the Neck, the citizens group that organized opposition to the big-box plan, says the 84,000-square-foot store doesn’t meet the overlay zone requirements.

Wiederhold said Sunbelt wants to continue to meet with the group as its plan evolves.

The redevelopment of the plaza, which was built in the 1980s, was prompted by interest from Wal-Mart Stores, but Sunbelt has since said there was no commitment from the company.

Wiederhold said they are still talking with other potential national retail tenants about the project. That’s another reason for the request to defer council action.

“Retailers are not focusing on new facilities now. They’re focused on selling,” he said.

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