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Big-box stores: 'Sprawlbuster' praises successful campaign

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Opponents of a big-box store in Pawleys Island did it right, according to Al Nelson of Greenfield, Mass., who tracks communities’ efforts against major retailers on a website called “Sprawl-busters.”

“There are 408 communities in the country that have successfully kept out Wal-Mart,” Nelson said. “It can be done. Pawleys Island has done it the best way: prevention. That’s the best, the cleanest and the quickest way to stop one.”

Nelson said residents of Lancaster, Calif., are facing the most difficult fight. “Wal-Mart wanted to come in on land zoned residential, and the city council voted to rezone it,” he said. “Citizens are trying to overturn the rezoning by referendum, voting on it.”

The next most difficult way to oppose a big-box retailer is litigation, Nelson said. That’s also the most costly.

“Zoning is very important because it’s a preemptive strike,” he said.

Sunbelt Ventures originally proposed a major retailer of 120,000 square feet in its plans to redevelop Pawleys Plaza.

Georgetown County Council approved a second of three readings last week on a proposal to redevelop the old shopping center with an anchor store of 60,000 square feet that must be separated from other main buildings of 33,000 and 16,000 square feet.

There will be a 10-foot alley between the two largest buildings.

“These companies play around with that,” Nelson said. “It’s bending the law by allowing buildings that close together. When you go back to the road, it will look like one building.”

Nelson said he favors retail development when it shares a campus. “There are lots of ways to put up projects compatible with Pawleys Island,” he said. “What I’ve heard from neighbors there is that this is far too big for the area.

“Pawleys Island is trying to preserve its small town quality of life. That translates through architecture that is consistent with other buildings — harmonious and compatible.”

Nelson had doubts about a caveat included in the ordinance’s language by County Council Member Jerry Oakley that the three main buildings must have at least three separate tenants.

“There are ways around that,” Nelson warned.

Council members said they wanted to see plans for landscaping and the design before they sign off on the project.

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