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Walmart: Planning staff sets conditions for big-box store

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County planning staff are recommending approval of a development plan for Pawleys Island Plaza that includes a 119,500-square-foot retail store. That comes with list of conditions that include compliance with the county’s commercial design standards, increased landscaping and buffers, paving of an access from Waverly Road and approval of a traffic light by the state highway department.

The county Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the project Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Waccamaw High auditorium. The developer, Sunbelt Ventures, has scheduled a meeting Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Pawleys Island Community Church to present the plan to the public and answer questions. The church is across Highway 17 from the shopping center.

Sunbelt Ventures wants to increase the area of the “planned development” and add to the amount of retail space. Although the county limits the size of commercial buildings in an “overlay zone” along Highway 17 to 45,000 square feet, the big-box store at the plaza will be on a separate parcel just outside the 500-foot limit of that zone.

The building is proposed for a Walmart, but the developers and Wal-Mart Stores say a Pawleys Island store has not been approved. Other national retailers have shown interest in the site over the years.

Big-box stores in general and Walmart in particular have drawn opposition from residents, second-home owners and visitors who believe the character of the area will change. In its report, the planning staff acknowledge those concerns, but say “the nature of the area which includes specialty shops will lead to minimal impact. Several chain stores, particularly pharmacies and fast food stores, already are located nearby. The continued presence of a deteriorating shopping center is obviously harmful to the local economy and sends a poor message to potential investors in the community.”

Staff say the architectural standards will help preserve the character of the area, and the report points out that the big-box building will be screened from Highway 17 by smaller stores at the front of the development as well as existing buildings like Bank of America and Pawleys Wines and Spirits.

The report says staff didn’t conduct an economic analysis, but they considered the impact of a Walmart in Georgetown and says “it did not appear to eliminate the number of jobs created.”

As to setting a precedent for other big-box retailers, “the project would not be viewed favorably by staff if it was all new development on undisturbed land,” the report states.

Other conditions proposed by the staff include limiting signage to a single “monument sign” with wall signs for tenants, approval of a traffic study (which is still under review by Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments) and approval of state and federal stormwater permits. The staff report also suggests Sunbelt use the residential lots shown on the plan for multi-family rather than single-family homes and that the county encourage the development of affordable housing.

Read other articles about the project: Pawleys Island and Walmart

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