The redevelopment of Pawleys Plaza took another step closer to reality on Tuesday night, as Georgetown County Council gave second reading to two ordinances that would allow the Planned Development to be changed.
What started out in August as a plan by Sunbelt Ventures of Mount Pleasant to build a 119,500-square-foot retail store, was approved with a building no larger than 60,000 square feet, which is what is allowed in the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone.
“This has been a long and winding road,” said council member Bob Anderson, who represents Pawleys Island. “It’s nice to see the rule of law prevail.”
Two ordinances dealing with Pawleys Plaza were on the Council agenda. The first was the plan recommended by the county Planning Commission, which required a building no larger than 60,000 square feet. The second included a revised site plan that Sunbelt submitted to the county, which showed the largest building in the development would not exceed the 60,000-square-foot limit.
Council approved second reading of both ordinances and then council member Jerry Oakley proposed revisions to the plan, including requirements that Sunbelt apply to the state Department of Transportation for a traffic light on Highway 17 at Petigru Drive and make all improvements to Richardson Lane before construction begins and before a certificate of occupancy is issued, and that the three main retail spaces contain different tenants.
County staff had suggested adding “three spaces, three tenants” to the ordinance, but County Administrator Sel Hemingway pointed out that Sunbelt could split the largest building into several spaces with several tenants, therefore subverting the ordinance’s intent.
Hemingway can allow construction to begin before improvements to Richardson Lane are completed if the county has a binding agreement with Sunbelt that it will make the repairs.
It will take one more vote by County Council before the plan is officially approved.
Council members Ron Charlton and Austin Beard both said they would like to see more design and landscaping plans before they vote again.
Anderson is not confident that a third vote would happen at the next Council meeting on Jan. 22.
“If I’m not ready, I will request a deferral,” Anderson said. “And I expect on the other side, Sunbelt will do the same.”
Georgetown County’s attorney is reviewing the ordinance and the amendments and will finalize the wording before final approval is given.
Tuesday’s Council meeting attracted less than 100 people, a far cry from the 1,300 people who crammed into Waccamaw High School when the redevelopment plan went before the county Planning Commission in September.
Although a plethora of green Don’t Box The Neck stickers could be seen in the audience, the revised plans seem to have softened some of the opposition.
SueAnn Crawford, leader of the Don’t Box the Neck, said group members were “pleased that Sunbelt has worked with us, staff and council” to come to a compromise.
“The community is supportive of progress that has been made between Sunbelt and the county,” said Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis.
Pawleys Island Town Council passed a resolution opposing Sunbelt’s original plans before the Planning Commission meeting.
Otis said he got an e-mail Tuesday morning from Sunbelt partner Dusty Wiederhold assuring him that Walmart was not going to move in after the redevelopment.
Amy Armstrong of the S.C. Environmental Law Project, who was also representing the Coastal Conservation League, said both groups still had concerns about stormwater runoff into Pawleys Creek, and urged county staff to make sure Sunbelt used the best stormwater system available
The Law Project and the Conservative League had threatened to sue if County Council approved the original project with the 119,500-square-foot store.
“We’re very thankful that the developer did what citizens have asked for and what County Council has asked for,” Armstrong said.
Some people still opposed the project, even with the revisions.
Glenn Cox, owner of Pawleys Island Pharmacy, was worried that the big-box store might be the area’s fifth pharmacy or a fifth grocery store.
Cox also thought 60,000 square feet was too big. He prefers a 45,000-square-foot limit.
Several people expressed concerns that a big-box store would change the character of the Waccamaw Neck.
“Bigger is not better,” said Bob Dimesky, who lives and owns a small business in Pawleys Island.
Other people had concerns about landscaping, traffic and lighting.
“It is not a perfect world and there is no perfect plan,” Oakley said.
Anderson plans to get Council to work on strengthening and clarifying zoning and ordinances.
“There’s some things I want to address to be more definitive in the ordinances,” he said. “I don’t want to fight this fight again.”
Pawleys Island resident Howard Ward had five suggestions for Council: restrict buildings to between 30,000 and 45,000 square feet; only allow one “big box” in any Planned Development; clarify the definition of a “building”; increase the Overlay Zone from 500 to 1,000 feet; and change offsite parking provision so they don’t include separate parcels in the same Planned Development.
Three supermarkets are among the biggest buildings on Waccamaw Neck. Food Lion in Pawleys Island is approximately 40,640 square feet; Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield is approximately 35,588 square feet; and Bi-Lo in Litchfield is approximately 25,385 square feet.
By Chris Sokoloski
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