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Pawleys Market: More landscaping sought for ‘gateway’

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

As the Georgetown County Planning Commission approved plans that will cut 22,000 square feet of commercial space from a shopping center on Highway 17 at the South Causeway it raised the level of landscaping that will be required along the highway.

The center, which will be called Pawleys Market, is the site for a Lowes Foods store that is due to open in the spring of 2014. That portion of the project was approved earlier this year by Georgetown County Council.

Two additional phases of the 19-acre development came up for review by the Planning Commission last week. Under a 2006 development plan each phase gets public review. The parcels recommended for approval by the commission last week include one with buildings of 10,000 and 8,000 square feet of commercial space and another with 12,000 and 8,000 feet, a reduction from the space allowed by the 2006 plan.

The council has approved the Lowes store for up to 47,000 square feet.

“That project is truly the gateway to Pawleys Island,” commission chairman Brian Henry said. “We have an opportunity with this development to do a very nice, Pawleys-worthy development.”

He pointed out that the Fresh Market grocery store on Highway 17 was approved with a Level 3 buffer requiring up to four canopy trees, six smaller trees and 36 shrubs and bushes for every 100 feet of frontage. Those are the plants needed for a 10-foot-wide buffer. Fewer are needed if the buffer is wider.

“I don’t want to put any undue burden, but at the same time we only have one shot at this,” Henry said.

Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis, in a statement presented to the commission, said that the Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield Market Village should be the standard for commercial landscaping. The Lowes Foods is the biggest building to go up since the county adopted a cap on the size of commercial structures “and it will set a precedent for others, such as the Pawleys Plaza, to follow,” Otis said.

Steve Strickland, owner of the Earthworks Group that is doing work on Pawleys Market, pointed out that oak trees on the site were saved during site preparation for a previous owner. “I wish we had the live oaks the Piggly Wiggly has, but I think we’ve got some good ones,” he said.

Otis said he has seen a drawing of the proposed Lowes store. It features large glass on the front and “what I would call a silo,” that’s also made of glass with a domed roof. It contains the vegetable section, he said.

Although he wasn’t able to attend the commission meeting, Otis said he wanted to make sure it kept appearance at the top of the agenda. He asked that enough large trees be required to break up the expanse of glass on the building facade.

“That building does have a lot of glass on the front,” Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said.

Ron Swinson, a partner in the development company, said the building is a new design for Lowes Foods and he is still working to ensure it complies with the county’s design standards for commercial buildings in the Highway 17 corridor. “We’re real close to being able to show it,” he said.

Swinson said he was surprised that the commission took up the landscape issue for the entire project at a meeting that was intended to review the buildings in two phases. “We are very sensitive to the Pawleys Island landscaping requirement,” he said. “But we haven’t gotten to that point.”

HR Developers is in the process of closing on the property, which was acquired by First South Bank through foreclosure last year. Swinson expects that to be completed in the next week along with the selection of a contractor. Work should begin by the end of July, he said.

The recommendation now goes to County Council for approval.

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