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Roads: Pawleys Plantation golf cart route will require hearing

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A plan to add a second access for golf carts and bikes at Pawleys Plantation will require a public hearing and a zoning change for the gated community, according to Georgetown County’s planning director.

The homeowners association wants to connect with the South Causeway to Pawleys Island along Rybolt Road and began clearing underbrush for the access last month. That raised objections from property owners in neighborhoods along Rybolt Road who say it will create traffic problems on what is now a dead-end road. Pawleys Plantation currently has one access onto Highway 17. The proposed link would let residents drive golf carts to the beach at Pawleys Island.

“The best thing to do is have a good old public process,” said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director. Pawleys Plantation is a “planned development” with its own zoning district. The additional access is a “major change” that will require a public hearing from the Planning Commission and approval from County Council, he said.

When the planning department was first asked about the access in September, staff considered it a minor change that could be approved in-house. Johnson said they reconsidered that position “based on new information that we have.”

Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis told the planning department the town opposes any plan that will add golf cart traffic to the island because the roads are narrow and already crowded. Residents of the Pawleys Island Woods neighborhood adjacent to Pawleys Plantation hired an attorney, Bob Moran, to press the case for a public hearing and to research whether Rybolt Road actually connects with Pawleys Plantation.

While Rybolt Road is a county road, and was repaved this summer, it intersects with Live Oak Lane, a private street. The Pawleys Plantation HOA says Rybolt crosses Live Oak and has a plat showing access. Pawleys Island Woods residents question that. “If there was just a 2-foot gap, it would be a problem,” Johnson said.

David Gundling, a Pawleys Planation resident and an attorney who has helped with the access, said work on the project has stopped. A lawyer for the association is “trying to clarify the access,” he said.

If the development were up for approval today, Johnson said, he would probably recommend a vehicle access on Rybolt Road. “One of our goals is to promote interconnectivity and keep cars off Highway 17,” he said.

When the idea was first raised, Johnson said, the planning staff didn’t realize the speed limit on the South Causeway was 40 mph, 5 mph higher than the limit set by the state for roads where golf carts are allowed. He drove through the area to see if it is possible to reach Pawleys Island or the shopping center on Highway 17 using side streets.

“Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see any way that a golf cart could make it down that road,” he said. “That’s an issue they need to work out before they go any further.”

Johnson questioned whether the path could be limited to bikes and pedestrians.

“The No. 1 call I get in the summer is from people in that neighborhood wanting to know if they can bring a golf cart to the beach,” Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said. He explains that the town doesn’t have jurisdiction over the 40 mph zone.

The town has discussed requiring permits for golf carts to provide a database when police write parking tickets and to ensure the vehicles are registered and insured as state law requires. But state law limits the ability of local government to restrict golf carts. “There are so many gray areas,” Fabbri said, that the idea was shelved. He now expects it will be back on the Town Council agenda.

“I never knew that golf carts could be such a polarizing issue,” he said.

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