102016 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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After Matthew: Town Hall falls victim to tougher flood rules

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Storms like Hurricane Matthew are the reason the town of Pawleys Island has tightened its rules about building in a flood zone. Those rules have claimed their first victim: Town Hall.

“There’s no doubt damage was beyond 50 percent,” Administrator Ryan Fabbri said.

The 750-square-foot building sits over the marsh at 321 Myrtle Ave. It was valued at $4,000, but insured for $116,000. The town spent $7,000 to remove insulation and paneling from the interior after about 2 feet of water washed through during the hurricane.

Once damage exceeds 50 percent of the value, the town requires that buildings be brought into compliance with its codes. That would require raising Town Hall 8 to 10 feet, Fabbri said.

The town could issue a variance. “I don’t know that sends the right message,” he said.

The building once served as a rental office for Buck and Susie Ward. It was acquired by the town at urging of former Mayor Jack Bland, who also did much of the work to turn it into the Town Hall and information center. He died in September 1990 and the building was named for him.

When the town started its police department, the building was expanded. That’s no longer an option, Mayor Bill Otis said, since it sits over the water.

The tougher flood rules in the town help property owners earn a discount on premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program. Those are currently worth a total of $300,000 island-wide.

“I do think it sends the wrong message to grant a variance,” Town Council Member Mike Adams said. “On the other hand, it may be the lesser of two evils.”

The town set up office in a construction trailer at the Pawleys Island Nature Park. It won’t have phone service until Tuesday or internet service until Oct. 27. Fabbri, Town Clerk Diane Allen and police officers use their cellphones. Internet access comes from a mobile hot spot in a police car.

The trailer isn’t big enough for the items salvaged from Town Hall. Those are in a U-Haul trailer parked next door at a cost of about $30 a day. “I didn’t think for a minute we’d be homeless,” Fabbri said, adding that this was his third disaster in his three years with the town.

The floodwater filled his desk drawers. It stopped short of a shelf containing the manuals for the flood insurance program.

Town Council agreed this week to let Otis and Fabbri negotiate a deal for a modular building to replace the trailer. Council Members Ashley Carter and Sarah Zimmerman, who are real estate agents, are also looking at possible rental space on the mainland.

Zimmerman said the town should buy a modular unit to place at the park and sell it when a new Town Hall is built.

The town met with attorney Woody DuRant in an executive session to get legal advice on its property options. The town owns a lot at the corner of the North Causeway and Myrtle Avenue that is now part of the nature park. The Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation, which raised money for the park, asked to be included in any discussion about the future of that site. “I think that’s fair,” Otis said.

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