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Development: Plan for horses proves a tipping point for residents

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Parkersville residents said last week that a rezoning proposal to allow a family to build a house and keep horses on the property was just another insult to their predominantly black community.

Foes said the county has allowed a recycling center, a kennel and a high-voltage electric substation in their neighborhood because they are black and powerless to object.

“Enough is enough,” Norman Reid, an area resident, told the Georgetown County Planning Commission. “We don’t want a horse stable or any other commercial proposal.”

When Bob Moran, attorney for the owners of the 8-acre tract, heirs of Samuel Smalls Sr., and potential buyers, Addie and Mark McCoy, said the proposal was not a farm and would benefit the community a low rumble of disbelief came from one side of the old courtroom where about 60 community residents were seated.

In the end, the commission sided with opponents of rezoning the lot at 1481 Petigru Dr. from “general residential” to a lower density “forest and agriculture-residential” even though they said alternatives would generate far more traffic, congestion and pollution.

Opponents were united in favoring any use, even a 100-unit apartment complex, over the family of four with two horses and a pony. Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said his staff recommended approval of the rezoning because it would lower the density in an area of growing congestion. “We work in the whole area of the Waccamaw Neck,” he said, “to reduce density when we have an opportunity.”

Planners delayed a vote on the rezoning request last month to allow the county staff to research laws concerning animals in residential areas. Johnson said laws were concerned with vicious or dangerous animals, public nuisances where animals were running at large and noise. With a 100-foot setback for any buildings or enclosures, he said any legal problems from the proposed stable and paddock were minimal.

Commission member Marvin Neal said the laws pertained mostly to dogs and said residents of 100 apartment units would pose more of a safety issue than three horses.

“Horses don’t get out,” Moran told the commission. “Horses don’t smell. Horse people keep their barns cleaner than my living room.”

That brought another, louder rumble from the neighborhood’s residents.

Some of the people objecting to the rezoning said it opened the door to all kinds of animals, even snakes.

Moran said the McCoys were not planning a farm or a ranch to raise cows, goats or sheep. “This was a perfect idea,” he said, “a place to have a home and have your horses. You can not see a pasture or barn from Petigru. This tract is huge.”

When community members circulated a petition against the rezoning, Moran said he called every person who signed and gave a phone number asking them to look at the property and the plans.

“Five people came,” he said, “and most of them said, ‘We wish we had known what you were going to do.’ The McCoys want to live at Pawleys Island with their horses.”

Reid said he represented the Pawleys Island Community Association and it disapproved of the rezoning proposal.

“Would such zoning be proposed for Litchfield, Hagley, Pawleys Plantation, Pawleys Place?” he asked. “This will be nasty, dirty, smelly and unsightly.”

When commission chairman Brian Henry asked the remaining 12 speakers to limit comments to three minutes, someone in the audience asked, “Can we have four?” Henry agreed.

Stephen Robinson said a horse operation on McDowell Shortcut Road in Murrells Inlet was situated on a “huge” amount of land. He worried about the McCoy horses escaping. “We don’t know what a 1,000-pound animal would do if it got loose,” he said.

He said there were no sidewalks along Petigru, and elderly people have to dodge traffic when they walk every morning for their health.

“On money matters,” he said, “we mean nothing.”

Bill Murray asked, “Why do they want to come to our community?”

Franklin McCray said, “You can’t come into our community and demand changes. Put it in Litchfield or DeBordieu.”

John Burgess said he was appalled by what he saw at the hearing. “What you have here is public outcry. We are not begging. We are simply asking: Do not grant this request. I don’t blame an individual who wants to make money. The people who live here are in their golden age. They don’t want to live beside horses, cows, snakes, buffaloes or any other creatures. Please, Planning Commission, do not allow this to come into our community.”

Moran said there have been no objections to cows at Lower Waverly or the former stables in Litchfield. “It pains me to have my clients characterized as these people here to do business and make money,” he said. “All I’m asking you folks to do is allow these people to live in Pawleys Island and raise a family.”

Commission member Glenda Shoulette said she lived near the stables in Litchfield before the property was sold for a county park and never heard a horse. “They were excellent neighbors,” she said.

She favored the rezoning for the McCoys. “I see it as a down-zoning, a plus for the neighborhood,” she said.

Commission member Norma Grant said she worried about the unhappiness in the community if the rezoning were recommended.

Henry said he came into the meeting — he missed the first round last month — favoring the rezoning. “I couldn’t see a way to vote against it,” he said. “What bothers me is the division in the room. What if it were a black family seeking this rezoning? I am surprised to see this many people, and I don’t get it. But it troubles me to see a thing go in there that rips a community apart.”

Henry, Neal and Grant voted to deny with Shoulette in the minority.

Commission members Larry Fox, Glenn Stafford and Elizabeth Krauss were absent.

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