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Pawleys Island: Closing road will provide site for new Town Hall

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Hurricane Matthew flooded Town Hall and left Pawleys Island’s staff out in the street. That’s where they will stay under a plan to close Pavilion Lane and build a new Town Hall in the right of way between the Pawleys Island Nature Park and Pawleys Creek.

The town attorney, David DuRant, has already contacted the state Department of Transportation and been told it is willing to turn over the 66-foot-wide right of way. That will put the new Town Hall near the site of the last Pawleys Pavilion, a creekfront dance hall that burned in 1970.

Mayor Bill Otis said the plan will improve public facilities along with access to the creek and save money. “You can’t overestimate the value to property owners,” he said.

The original Town Hall was the creation of former Mayor Jack Bland, who converted it from a vacant real estate rental office in 1988. The building was named for him after his death in 1990.

The building flooded in last month’s storm and because damage exceeded 50 percent of it’s $4,800 assessed value it can’t be rebuilt under the town’s flood ordinance. A mobile home is due to arrive today in the Nature Park that will serve as a temporary Town Hall. The administrator, clerk and police have been working out of contractor’s trailer since the storm. The town’s records are stored in a U-haul trailer at a cost of $29 a day.

The town owns a former home site at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and the North Causeway. It was landscaped by the Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation, a nonprofit that maintains the Nature Park. The park itself is leased to the town for $1 a year by the Pawleys Island Pavilion Co., another nonprofit originally formed to build the pavilion. Otis was once president of the pavilion company, but stepped down when he was elected mayor in 1997. The town didn’t want to build on its lot because the landscaping was funded through memorials from island property owners and visitors. It didn’t want to grant a variance to rebuild the original Town Hall since it would set a bad precedent, Otis said.

It was Glenn Cox, a long-time resident, who came up with what Otis called “an out of the box solution.” Council discussed it in two closed-door sessions with DuRant before voting this week to move forward.

Cox, who lives on Myrtle Avenue and owns Pawleys Island Pharmacy, said the idea came to him as he drove to work one morning. He had read about the town’s plans for a temporary office and the possibility that it might rent space on the mainland. “That was a concern,” he said. “I was trying to figure out what was best for the town.”

Pavilion Lane, a one-way street, runs about 650 feet from the North Causeway to Myrtle Avenue. The pavement takes up 30 feet. Under the town’s plan, it would become a dead-end street, providing access and parking for the Nature Park and the creek. It’s possible the configuration of a Town Hall site will involve trading property with the Pawleys Island Pavilion Co., Otis said.

To maintain traffic flow, a right-turn lane would be added to the North Causeway at Myrtle Avenue.

Administrator Ryan Fabbri believes the town will be able to pay for the new building through a combination of insurance and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town agreed to pay $10,000 to a former state flood insurance program coordinator as a consultant to work with the federal agency. “She’s going to pay for herself,” Fabbri said. “I guarantee it.”

In the meantime, the town is prepared to spend two years in a temporary office at the park. It will be set up to one side of the open area used each spring for the Pawleys Pavilion Reunion.

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