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Murrells Inlet: County wants more study of apartment project traffic impact

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Developers of an apartment complex in Murrells Inlet will have to show that their study of the project’s impact on traffic is based on peak season numbers before they get final approval to start work. The requirement followed a hearing by the Georgetown County Planning Commission last week.

Commission member Lee Shoulette said the worksheet for the study shows traffic counts were taken in October. “It would be significantly different if it was done on July 4,” he said.

Graycliff Capital Partners of Greenville plans 240 apartments in the first phase of development on 41 acres between Wesley Road and Wachesaw Road. The company also owns the 192-unit Litchfield Oaks complex. “That’s actually what brought us here tonight,” Paul Aiesi, one of the company’s principals, told the commission. “We identified a need in this market for affordable rental property.”

The partners started looking for sites once the waiting list at Litchfield Oaks reached 20. Will McCauley, another principal in Graycliff and owner of Creative Builders in Greenville, came prepared to talk about the design and the amenities, such as a bike barn, kayak shack and golf club storage. “This isn’t a student housing deal,” he said. “It’s a high-quality multi-family community.”

The property is zoned “general residential,” which allows the apartment complex. The commission only had to ensure that it meets the county development regulations. Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said the traffic study was part of that, although he said it was unusual to get the study in advance of the commission’s review. And he was curious how the study’s authors from the engineering firm Stantec came to the conclusion that no road improvements are necessary to accommodate the 1,578 daily trips that the apartment project will generate. “If it was on Highway 17, we would have required a turn lane without a study,” he said.

The main entrance to the development will be from Wachesaw Road, where the intersection with Bypass 17 has a traffic light. But it will also have access to Wesley Road and the second phase of development could tie in with Old Kings Highway.

The math in the traffic study is complex, said David Gantt, the engineer for the project. “The biggest part, in laymen’s terms, is how long you have to sit and wait to turn into a development,” he told the commission.

He said he thought the traffic counts were done in August.

In addition, the tract has access to Wachesaw Road across a narrow parcel. It isn’t wide enough for turn lanes. “We don’t control the frontage beyond our property,” Gantt said.

Area residents told the commission they are concerned about the impact on traffic. Daniel Durst said there will be more people in the apartments than live on Wesley Road today.

“It will be too many people, too much traffic,” Robert Granieri, a Wesley Road resident, said. “I think single-family houses in there would be fine. This is ridiculous.”

Michael Gabay, another Wesley Road resident, said he came to the commission meeting to talk about the traffic. He was pleased to hear most of the traffic will go to Wachesaw Road. “I take the developers at their word,” he said. “I think it will be great for our community.”

Tim Tharpe has property on Wesley Road and Wachesaw Road. Traffic, he said, “is already bad. You’re going to make it worse.”

Tharpe and Wendell Powers, a surveyor representing a neighboring property owner, said they were concerned about drainage, pointing out that the 41 acres sit astride a major route for stormwater. Tharpe said he has asked the county for years to help with drainage problems. “You can’t depend on anything from them except the tax notices will get out on time,” he said.

The commission approved the project on the condition of more traffic data and an additional review once the stormwater plan is approved by the county Public Works department.

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