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Highway 17: Council changes course to cut building setback to 50 feet

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council reversed a decision its members made during a committee meeting and passed the first of three readings necessary to reduce the setback on Highway 17 and part of Highway 701 from 90 to 50 feet this week.

Meeting as the Administrative and Finance Committee last week, council members voted to include the setback question into a corridor study planned by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study for the Waccamaw Neck.

Council chairman Johnny Morant suggested consolidating the setback issue with the GSATS corridor issue during the committee meeting, and a majority agreed that more information would be welcome. The remainder of the county affected by the 90-foot setback rule could be considered separately, Council Member Austin Beard said.

With Morant absent from this week’s meeting, Beard moved to reconsider the action taken during the committee meeting, and Council Member Steve Goggans, who proposed reducing the setback to 50 feet, seconded.

Goggans had opposed delaying the setback decision by including it in the GSATS study. “I thought we’d be hearing a few facts but didn’t have the opportunity,” Goggans said at this week’s council meeting. Including the setback with the GSATS corridor study would only complicate matters, he said. “What’s controversial today will be controversial a year from now,” he said. “The setback issue could overshadow the corridor study itself and subvert the real resolution.”

He said the setback is a local issue that is a hardship on owners of non-conforming property. “I don’t like the idea of delegating to GSATS,” he said. “There’s no need to prolong this further.”

John Thomas urged his fellow council members to take their own advice and follow the committee’s recommendation. “The council,” he said, “should follow the wishes of its constituency, which I believe overwhelmingly doesn’t want the setback changed.”

Thomas moved to table the vote on first reading of the ordinance to reduce the setback. His motion failed for lack of a second.

Second reading and the public hearing on the setback issue will be scheduled Feb. 9.

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