Pawleys Walmart plans raise concerns
Representatives from Sunbelt Ventures met with Georgetown County Planning Director Boyd Johnson on Thursday to discuss the redevelopment of Pawleys Plaza.
Sunbelt submitted plans last week that include a 119,500-square-foot store for the site on U.S. Highway 17 in Pawleys Island.
Johnson originally said the store would be a Walmart, but later said he couldn’t call it a Walmart until the developer submitted plans that had the word “Walmart” on them.
Sunbelt was supposed to give Johnson a rendering of the store, but did not do so at Thursday’s meeting.
A Sunbelt representative said the company would submit a traffic study to the county next week.
Georgetown County Council Member Bob Anderson, whose district includes Pawleys Island, met with the developer earlier this week and said the plans include a Walmart.
“It was a very cordial meeting,” Anderson said. “I let them know there are a lot of concerns with big box on the Neck.”
Anderson said since the proposal was first reported in the media on Aug. 9, he’s been inundated with phone calls and e-mails. Ninety percent of the people who contacted him are opposed to the plan.
“My job is to feel the pulse of the people and see where we go with this thing,” Anderson said. “Regardless of what it is, we’ve got a perception here that folks on the Neck aren’t interested in that type of thing.”
He personally would not like to see the retail giant build in Pawleys.
“We really don’t need a Walmart, we’ve got one in Georgetown and one up in Murrells Inlet. Most of those things we can already get right here.”
But he’s keeping an open mind when it comes to the property.
“I want this to be a win-win situation for everybody,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a piece of property that needs some attention. We need to do something constructive with [it].”
The new Walmart would be smaller than the area’s two other stores. The Walmart in Georgetown is 193,000 square feet, and the one in Murrells Inlet is 148,000 square feet.
In the week since news of Walmart’s plans were reported in the media, opponents have turned to social media to rally support for their efforts.
A quick search of Facebook found pages for: “Don’t Box the Neck”; “Keep Pawleys Island Walmart-Free”; and “Sustainable Pawleys Island.”
These three pages have nearly 900 followers.
“Don’t Box the Neck” was the rallying cry in 2005 when Lowe’s Home Improvement wanted to build a store at U.S. Highway 17 and the South Causeway.
Social media was just in its infancy at the time, but opponents used word-of-mouth to rally supporters and more than 1,000 people showed up at a Georgetown County Planning Commission hearing on the proposal.
Anticipating a large crowd, that hearing was moved to the Howard Auditorium in Georgetown.
The Walmart plan will go before the Planning Commission on Sept. 20.
The site has not been determined, but Johnson said it will likely be in the auditorium at one of the county’s high schools.
By Chris Sokoloski
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