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Highway 17: Fast-food restaurants part of plan at new light

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Two fast-food restaurants are in the plan for property south of a new traffic light on Highway 17 at Pawleys Island.

“When you put up a red light, it really increases the value of these corners,” Boyd Johnson, Georgetown County’s director of Planning and Zoning, said. The signal was put up as part of the renovation and expansion of Pawleys Island Plaza, where the anchor store, a Publix supermarket, opened last week.

The property is now two lots totaling 4.8 acres that wrap around Pawleys Wine and Spirits at the corner of Highway 17 and Petigru Drive. The owner wants to rezone the property as a “flexible design district” that will allow more buildings than the one per lot available under the current “general commercial” zoning.

The plan for the project was created by SGA Architecture, owned by County Council Member Steve Goggans. It’s the first project from the firm to come before the county Planning Commission since he took office in January.

“I am totally recusing myself from the process,” Goggans said. “I can’t disengage from my livelihood.”

While the project will be presented to the commission by one of SGA’s engineers, Goggans said he planned to attend a technical review committee meeting with planning staff and representatives of utility providers. The committee review is not a binding part of the planning process.

The plan for the project shows a 4,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant on the highway south of the existing liquor store. Another building on the highway has three other restaurant spaces of 2,000 square feet each. One of those is also designated for fast food.

Behind the restaurants are four buildings totalling 25,250 square feet proposed for a mix of office and retail space. They will have access from Petigru Drive at an entrance that will be aligned with the Pawleys Island Plaza entrance.

None of the tenants have been identified, Goggans said. “They’re still in the pre-leasing phase,” he said.

The property is owned by Winyay Bay Investments, a partnership between Jody Tamsberg and Guerry Green. “They are both pretty invested in the community,” Goggans said.

The project isn’t being rezoned for sale, he added.

“The obvious thing that’s going on is they’re capitalizing on the value of the property because of all the things that are going on around there,” Goggans said.

Some of the tenants in the project may end up being national retailers because of the proximity to Publix. There’s also interest from “medical office users,” Goggans said.

The county created the “flexible design district” designation after a ruling in state court that “planned developments” were invalid unless they included a mix of residential and commercial uses.

Without a rezoning, the owners would have to subdivide the property, Johnson said.

“There are a lot of benefits to it,” he said of the proposal. It will allow shared parking, a common identification sign and shared entrances.

“This does allow you to cluster uses,” Goggans said. The owners “get a little more density. The public benefit is in cohesive landscaping and signage.”

All of the buildings will meet the county’s design standards for commercial projects along the Highway 17 corridor, he said.

The Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the project April 16.

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