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Politics: Median plan opponent shifts focus to council election

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Steve Goggans couldn’t get members of Georgetown County Council to listen to public outcry about a median proposal for Highway 17 in Pawleys Island. Now he’s challenging incumbent Bob Anderson for the District 6 seat with a promise that he will pay attention to the people.

“Who would have thought,” Goggans said while announcing his candidacy at the Lachicotte Realty conference room Tuesday, “that over a year ago when we began this process to get the median stopped it would have culminated in, hopefully, something a little more important, a little bigger. After trying to recruit other people, it dawned on me that maybe I was the guy who needed to consider this position.”

Goggans, an architect and contractor in the Pawleys Island area for almost 30 years, was chairman of the median opposition group Don’t Strip the Neck. He said vice chairman David Gundling will take over the group now that he is a candidate for County Council. “The movement Don’t Strip the Neck is a manifestation of just one of the things problematic in our community,” Goggans said. “Pawleys Island has grown up as a community. We have become a town. The idea that we can take a single element or any part of a community and just think carelessly about it as we go forward in the future does not work. We’ve got to think about the community in a more holistic fashion, think about it from the standpoint of better planning.”

Anderson reviewed the highway median alternative proposal from Don’t Strip the Neck but said he favored the state Department of Transportation model with its two additional stop lights and U-turn breaks. He agreed with Councilman Jerry Oakley of District 1 that the opposition group had missed the final deadline for appealing the design and it was too late to change it.

Goggans was chairman of the Waccamaw Neck Board of Architectural Review that granted an exception to the roof design ordinance for Sunbelt Ventures at Pawleys Island Plaza last year. Members of Georgetown County Council couldn’t reverse the decision, but it dismissed the members and disbanded the board, fearing more challenges to the Highway 17 corridor design standards.

Goggans said the only thing he would have done differently as chairman was offer a clearer explanation for his vote. “If I had to do it over again,” he said during an interview Wednesday, “I’d make sure I provided the legal basis and rationale for offering the variance. The rationale is this: If you are not renovating it more than 50 percent of its appraised value you don’t have to bring it up to code. The developer and I met some weeks before, and I became convinced there was a pretty good chance that he could have redeveloped the plaza and kept it under 50 percent and wouldn’t necessarily have had to conform to appearance board criteria. The guy had made a pretty good attempt to conform.”

Goggans said he knew he was going against the wishes of Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis and his friends from Don’t Box the Neck. “I knew I was voting the way those folks would have issue with,” he said. “I thought it through and voted what I thought was right from a legal perspective.”

Goggans said he thought the county’s rule that buildings had to be 10 feet apart was contrived. “The county created a condition that forced him to comply, and that bothered me,” he said.

As for the rules governing new construction on the Waccamaw Neck, Goggans literally wrote the book. “I wrote the design codes and was a chief advocate for the overlay district,” he said. His platform calls for a better building and land development permit system for the Neck.

Goggans said the Waccamaw Neck produces 80 percent of Georgetown County’s tax revenue. “I am personally very much in favor of doing what we can to open the port, doing what we can to bring industry to the rest of the county, creating jobs,” he said.

However, he called the Waccamaw Neck and in particular ZIP code 29585 the “economic engine” of the county. “If we don’t protect this asset, take care of our community, the effect will reduce the value of our individual and collective assets, property values will decline, the quality of tourism will decline.”

Goggans said inattention to detail and the challenge of unmanaged growth could derail Georgetown County. “The result,” he said, “would be lost opportunities and a less stellar place to live, work, retire, visit and play. We need to create substance where there is just parking lot chatter.”

Correction: A headline in the print edition incorrectly referred to the race as Council District 1, not 6.

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