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Land use: Medium density area gets high density project

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A plan for a high density development was approved last week for an area near Pawleys Creek that Georgetown County has designated for medium density growth. Although the land-use plan was changed to reduce density several years ago, the zoning did not change and the project meets the requirements, according to Boyd Johnson, the county planning director.

The plan to turn seven lots into 15 lots got approval from the Georgetown County Planning Commission over the objections of one neighbor. Dale Gordon, who lives across the street from the proposed development on Blockade Drive called it “a preview of coming attractions.”

Brothers Chase and Browder McGill asked the county to approve the new lots for Pawleys Sunset, a single-family subdivision on 2.8 acres. The request was deferred by the commission last month so the McGills could meet with neighbors to explain the project.

The 15 lots will meet the county’s minimum area requirement of 6,000 square feet in the “general residential” zoning district. A street shown on current county maps that was never developed will be abandoned and a new street will built to connect the lots with Blockade Drive and Minnow Drive.

A chief concern of neighbors was drainage in the area. Since the August commission meeting, Georgetown County has cleared a ditch between the project site and neighboring properties. “Every one of them said they were so happy to see the county out there cleaning out the ditches,” said Jim Green, the engineer for the project who met with the neighbors.

They also raised concerns about traffic and maintenance of the open areas. The houses will have access to the South Causeway from Blockade and Minnow; a homeowners association will kept the common areas mowed. “Everybody left with a smile on their face,” Green said, adding that since the meeting room seats were mostly empty, “I think we satisfied their concerns.”

Gordon, who lives across Blockade Drive from the project, told the commission neighbors are still opposed. “I don’t know why they aren’t here,” he said. (One of them, Louis Hipp, came in after the commission voted to approve the project.)

“This is what I call the raping of Pawleys Island,” Gordon said. “All this is is greed.”

He has lived on the street 38 years. Instead of the prospect of three houses across the street, he’s now looking at 15. Along with vehicles there will be golf carts, boats and dogs. “It’s too much for what is there,” Gordon said. “I would ask if there’s anyone in here who would like that in front of their house?”

He also predicted there would be similar developments along Blockade Drive where there are other vacant tracts.

The future land-use plan, the blueprint for zoning, calls for medium density in the area, which is less than the five units per acre in the Pawleys Sunset project. Medium density also has a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet. But that would only be required if a property owner asked for a zoning change, Johnson explained after the meeting. “It wouldn’t apply in this case because it’s a subdivision that meets current zoning,” he said.

And unlike a zoning change, which requires approval of County Council, the subdivision plan only requires commission approval. “This meets all of the criteria,” commission member Johnny Weaver said. He made the motion to approve Pawleys Sunset.

The vote was 4-0 with commission member Freddie Hill the last to raise his hand. “I understand your frustration,” he told Gordon. “We don’t make the rules, but we have to follow them.” In the case of Pawleys Sunset, “everything’s done exactly like it’s supposed to be,” Hill said.

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