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Sidewalks: Council members disagree over study
By Jason Lesley
There may not be disagreement over the need for sidewalks and bike pathways on the Waccamaw Neck, but members of Georgetown County Council are not on the same page when it comes to planning for them.
Council Member Steve Goggans proposed forming a committee this week to begin planning a more “walkable” community on the secondary streets off Highway 17. He suggested that County Administrator Sel Hemingway appoint the planning director and his assistant, the Waccamaw Regional Council of Government’s transportation director, Bike the Neck organizer Linda Ketron and other members of the public to the study committee.
“Walkways are important to tourism, safety, public health and our quality of life,” Goggans said. “It’s time we position ourselves as a community to plan and implement sidewalks and bike paths.” He said it would be important for the county to have a comprehensive plan in place when transportation funding becomes available.
Goggans said an analysis of the Highway 17 corridor has been funded by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study. His proposal for an integrated network of walks and paths would include consideration of other roads like Martin Luther King Road and Petigru Road in Pawleys Island and Business 17 in Murrells Inlet.
Council Member John Thomas said he favors more sidewalks and bike paths, but forming a committee would be a piecemeal approach to planning. “In order to do what we are talking about will require resources,” he said. “To come up with a prioritized list of where sidewalks and bike paths would go will require an
engineering study to determine the cost of one versus another. It would take engineering to do that. I recommend adding scope to the GSATS corridor study instead of creating a separate study.”
Goggans said it would be a challenge to change the scope of a project already funded. The corridor study does not contemplate streets other than Highway 17, he said.
Council Chairman Johnny Morant asked Goggans if the study would be driven by County Council or the community. He wanted to make sure residents are represented in any plans being discussed.
Planning director Boyd Johnson said a preliminary plan for sidewalks and bike paths would be useful. He pointed out that Mercom was asked to include a bike path in its plans for a new technology campus on Petigru Road. That segment would be a “bike path to nowhere” if the county never connected it, Johnson said. “Don’t make Mercom put one in if we know it’s not going to connect.”
Johnson said a concise plan without bells and whistles could be put together with minimum cost. Goggans said engineering studies and permitting would come later. “This is to create a network and begin to prioritize which elements it makes sense to pursue,” he said.
Council Member Ron Charlton commended Goggans for his foresight in recommending the committee. After hearing some reservations from other council members, Morant sent the proposal to the Land Use Committee of Austin Beard, Goggans and Thomas for a recommendation.