THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Pawleys Island: Planning resumes for new Town Hall
By Charles Swenson
Pawleys Island will move forward with plans for a new Town Hall at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and the North Causeway. It will do so without input from Council Member Rocky Holliday, who lives across the street. He recused himself from future discussions “to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest,” he said.
But Holliday said that doesn’t extend to paying for the project, which the council has capped at $500,000. He told the council he opposes the idea of borrowing money to build the Town Hall.
“It’s been said that borrowing these funds can be done without resulting in any additional payments from our homeowners,” he said. “While that may be technically true today, I have little doubt that such a decision will, at a minimum, hasten the day when all of us with property on the island are paying local taxes to the town.”
Town Council this week approved a contract with the Graham Group to design the building that will replace the one that was flooded in Hurricane Matthew last October. The original Town Hall was converted from a vacant beach rental office in 1988. With an addition, it had 460 square feet.
The town now plans a building with about 2,000 square feet across from the original Town Hall on property it bought in 2010 for $375,000. The lot, once the site of a store and a private home, is adjacent to the town Nature Park. The park is owned by the nonprofit Pawleys Pavilion Co. and leased to the town for $1 a year.
The town initially wanted to close the street that runs along one side of the park and build a new Town Hall in the right of way. The pavilion company objected and said if the street was closed it would seek title to the land.
Otis, who was president of the nonprofit for 20 years before his election to Town Council in 1995, struggled to explain the current board’s reasoning at a meeting with property owners last week. “I was shocked when they just came back and said no,” he told about 50 people who met in the Pawleys Island Chapel to discuss the project.
Henry Thomas suggested the town condemn the property, which was the site of the last of the Pawleys Pavilion dance halls. “What does it serve now? Nothing,”
Otis said even if the town condemned the property, something it had never done before, it would still have to compensate the owners. Town Council doesn’t want to spend money on another site.
The corner lot was landscaped with donations and as part of a Eagle Scout project. “It’s getting ready to be bulldozed and torn up,” said Fran Green, the Scout’s mother and a Planning Commission member.
Otis said the town needs a larger space and even though it has repaired the old Town Hall that building is prone to flood again. The new building will be raised and have a elevator.
David Graham, the architect, told property owners “we really tried to build some character into the design.” He showed a preliminary drawing.
“The tower almost looks foreboding,” Emilie Carey said of the elevator shaft.
“It looks like a great place for a party,” John Barton said of the building.
His wife Bebe raised concerns about paying for the project. Otis said the town finances are solid in spite of two other capital projects: one to move electric lines underground and another to pump sand onto the beach.
He said the town could borrow the money, too.
After Holliday outlined for council members this week his objections to borrowing to build a new Town Hall, Otis told him, “I understand where you are coming from.” But however it is paid for “this is one of those things that absolutely has to get done.”
Borrowing money is a “slippery slope,” Holliday said. “I, for one, do not believe in the idea that a government can open the door to fiscal irresponsibility when it’s convenient and still have the ability to shut that door.”
Administrator Ryan Fabbri noted afterward that financing has only come up in conversation with individual council members. He plans to seek grants for the Town Hall project and wants to investigate a low-cost federal Rural Development loan. But he added, “we’re not that far into it.”
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