PAWLEYS ISLAND S.C. — The Georgetown County Architectural Review Board met for the first time in nearly nine years Wednesday and the decision they made could mean they will be meeting again in a few months.
At issue was a request from the owners of Pawleys Island Plaza for a variance from the county’s roof design requirements for the Waccamaw Neck Overlay Zone. The panel said “yes” to the request.
Sunbelt Ventures is planning to renovate Pawleys Plaza which County ARB member Samuel Plexico said is currently “the worst looking property in Pawleys Island.”
At Wednesday’s hearing — chaired by Steve Goggans, elected to that post at the start of the meeting — Mack Cross of Sunbelt Ventures said the company cannot comply with the ordinance mandating that at least 50 percent of the roof of every new or heavily renovated building in the Overlay District be pitched.
Cross told the board if the amount of pitches on the roofs on all the buildings on the property is added together, it meets the criteria of the ordinance. He said, in total, 56.2 percent of the roofing on the site is pitched.
However, County planner Boyd Johnson said 50 percent of the roof on each building must be pitched.
Cross said the roof requirement “restricts the utilization of the property” because it would not be “financially or structurally feasible.” One of the buildings is 46,000-square-feet. A pitched roof on that building would likely cause it to exceed the county’s 35-foot height limits, it was said.
Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis spoke during the meeting saying other stores that have built — or will soon build — on the Waccamaw Neck have found a way to follow the rules of the ordinance.
He said Lowes Foods, soon to start building at the intersection of Highway 17 and the South Causeway, has not asked for a variance and will meet the requirement. That building will be similar in size to the largest building on the Pawleys Plaza property.
Ron Swinson, a Columbia developer who is a partner in the Lowes Foods project, told the board before they voted that if they approved the Sunbelt request, he will return in a few months asking for the same variance.
“I want to make sure the playing field is even. We have worked hard to meet the requirements and it has been expensive. Granting (Sunbelt’s) variance would put us on a different playing field,” Swinson said, adding it is not too late for changes to be made to the Lowes Foods architectural designs.
“We complied with the intent (of the ordinance) as much, if not more, than Lowes Foods,” Cross said.
Plexico said he wanted to grant the variance because he “is tired of government impeding businessmen who are using their own capital” to make improvements and provide jobs.
He said Sunbelt is “improving the value of the property.”
“This is the best chance to get rid of a plight of the community,” Plexico added.
In the end, the board agreed and granted the variance request by a 5-1 vote.
Sunbelt plans to build a retail space “not to exceed” 60,000 square feet, build a 16,000-square-foot retail space, and rehabilitate a 33,382-square-foot existing space.
By Scott Harper