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Development: Council rejects cut in building size limit

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council wants to restrict the size of buildings in the Waccamaw Neck overlay corridor along Highway 17 and still be able to make exceptions in the future.

Council members tabled the second reading of an ordinance regarding the maximum size of buildings in the Waccamaw Neck Architectural Overlay District, excluding Business 17 in Murrells Inlet, proposed by the county Planning Commission.

The commission recommended a fixed cap of 45,000 square feet for buildings within the overlay district, which covers commercial buildings along Highway 17 on Waccamaw Neck. Council Member Jerry Oakley called the proposal “a solution in search of the problem” because County Council could approve a “planned development” with a building as large as 60,000 square feet.

“I was the primary advocate for limiting structures’ size for the overlay zone on Highway 17,” Oakley said. “We later amended it that only within a ‘planned development’ could we consider 60,000 square feet. From that point forward, it’s complicated.”

Oakley said he favored the “possibility of flexibility” if a project came along that the community embraced, welcomed and wanted. He said the threat of a fixed cap is already “biting” the county in two places but did not elaborate on any proposed new business. “We are being snared by a net never intended to snare,” he said.

Oakley said it would be impossible to slam the door forever on buildings of a certain size. “Future councils can undo the ordinance,” he said. “It seems to me this ordinance is not necessary.”

Council Member Bob Anderson said a 45,000 square foot building should work for anybody on the Waccamaw Neck. “The new Lowe’s Foods is 46,500 square feet,” he said, “and it’s huge.” Anderson said Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis had lobbied for a 35,000 square foot cap, but he disagreed. “Forty-five thousand is the sweet spot,” he said.

The planning commission held a public hearing last May and voted unanimously to establish a single cap and set it at 45,000 square feet.

The Land Use and Tourism Committee did not move to recommend that county council adopt the ordinance.

Council members approved second reading of an ordinance requiring 20 feet of separation between buildings. County planning director Boyd Johnson said side yard setback requirements in the “general commercial” zoning requires a 20-foot side yard setback. The issue came up after developers of Pawleys Plaza were allowed to have just 10 feet between buildings.

Anderson said that was a compromise after starting at zero. “The fact of the matter,” he said, “is that it should be 50 feet.”

Second reading of an ordinance regarding the definition of a commercial building was also approved.

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