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Highway 17: Pastor leads new petition drive against median project
By Charles Swenson
Pastor Mark Wilson is willing to forgive.
“If you do something wrong, it’s better to come off of it and make it right,” he said.
That’s what Wilson wants Georgetown County to do with the project that has installed a raised median along 1.8 miles of Highway 17 through the Pawleys Island business district. He and his wife Linda, Hagley residents, began circulating petitions last month calling on County Council to take the lead in altering the raised medians that were installed this year and to abandon plans for a similar project on the highway south of Waverly Road.
The $3.75 million median project is due to be completed by the end of November. The state Department of Transportation is managing the project, which is part of the county’s transportation plan. It was proposed over a decade ago as a way to keep traffic moving through the Pawleys Island area without widening Highway 17 to six lanes.
“I really think they thought they were doing something good and now it’s turned out bad,” Wilson said. He is pastor of the Pawleys House of Prayer, which has a church on the highway south of Waverly Road. “If they come this way, it’s going to be total havoc,” he said.
Wilson is aware that a campaign to alter the design of the median project failed in 2014. The leader of that campaign, Steve Goggans, stepped down to run for a seat on County Council. He defeated the incumbent, Bob Anderson, who had defended the project.
Wilson has met with Goggans, who told him he would present the petitions to the council.
Goggans said business owners in the project area from Waverly Road north to Baskervill Drive have told him their sales this summer were down 15 to 20 percent at a time when tourism was up. Some of that might be due to construction. “We probably have to wait and see,” he said. “Give it a fair evaluation, go through a complete tourist season.”
Wilson has also heard from businesses who have asked for petitions. He estimates he has already exceeded his goal of 2,500 signatures. He has also heard concerns about the median limiting access for emergency vehicles. “Seconds mean lives,” he said. If the median can’t be removed, it should be altered to increase access, Wilson said.
“I’m not pointing fingers,” he said. “It was a good idea, but it wasn’t planned properly.”
Goggans thinks the activation of two traffic signals in the project area may help. And he added, “The landscaping looks good, I’ll give you that. I don’t think there’s enough.”