My heart is with those folks in the Pawleys Island area who don’t want so-called “Big Box” commercial development and would like things to stay the way they were years ago. But, alas, that ship has sailed.
The proposed redevelopment of an existing shopping center near the center of the community into a complex that reportedly will include a Walmart has once again stirred the ire of those who don’t want “Big Box” stores in their community. I understand their opposition but reality is what it is. They may very well prevent big new development in their neighborhood but my point is that smaller commercial development has already changed the image of the area forever.
I don’t expect to gain approbation for my view that the apparition of a small seaside community has faded sadly into the past. Opportunities to salvage the image of bygone days were more than likely missed years ago.
The reality of the situation is that within the past several decades, the entire image of Waccamaw Neck communities has changed drastically. Those of us who have been around for years can remember when there was practically no commercial development south of Garden City. The final frontier of massive business development ended in those days just a few blocks south of Garden City. Murrells Inlet business was pretty much limited to a dozen or more restaurants off Highway 17. Things began to change almost thirty years ago when the Inlet Mall was constructed on the south-side of Garden City. The rest is history. Rampant development moved swiftly down the Highway 17 corridor and soon reached Litchfield and Pawleys Island while skipping over Brookgreen Gardens and the state park which prohibit development.
Little has slowed the southern migration to and including Litchfield and Pawleys Island. The only thing stopping additional movement southward is thousands of acres of restricted property between Pawleys Island and Georgetown.
There are arguments for and against further development in and around Pawleys but opportunities to restrict development in general were missed years ago. However, the zoning overlay for the Waccamaw Neck area prohibits oversized development within most of the land toward Murrells Inlet and therein lays the current argument against the proposed redevelopment of property in the mainland area of Pawleys which apparently will include a “Big Box.”
Opponents of the plan say they are not against commercial development — just Big Box development. This raises the question of whether a multitude of “Small Box” developments equals single “Big Box” buildings or not. The whole area has seen an abundance of smaller development in recent years. It seems that cookie-cutter lines of business establishments have mushroomed and whenever they are occupied, another half dozen or so pop up.
Some folks like to make statements like, “If we don’t stop it now, Pawleys Island will look like the Myrtle Beach area.” Excuse me. Do some folks close their eyes whenever they drive up or down Highway 17 in Litchfield and Pawleys Island? I’m sorry to disillusion anyone but some local areas already looks like the south-side of Myrtle Beach! Granted, the Neck area has utilized set-back, shielding and other zoning requirements to lessen the effect but the establishments are still there and growing. The Piggly Wiggly complex in Litchfield is a prime example of what could have been done to shield development from view.
The only way that Pawleys Island’s image can be truly saved is to tear down most of what has been developed in the last twenty or thirty years and start from scratch to reconstruct what the community looked like in the old days. Obviously that isn’t going to happen and moreover most folks in the area didn’t actually see what Pawleys Island was in the old days. They lived someplace else.
My heart bleeds for those “natives” and long-time residents of Pawleys who did indeed live and appreciate Pawleys when it was in fact a real seaside village. They most likely do miss it and would like to return, at least in part, to that bygone image but that seems unlikely. And it might even be said that they were the ones who missed opportunities to preserve the historic image of one of the very first resort areas in the Southland.
However, the folks in the incorporated beach area have preserved most of what has been lost on the highway side of the community. I hope they can maintain the quaint and somewhat primitive ambiance of their beach community.
Opponents may very well stop “Big Box” development and they have some solid arguments but final decision will be up to Georgetown County Council which places it firmly in the political realm. The truth is quite simply that mass commercial development has already occurred and continues at breakneck speed on the Waccamaw Neck.
And that bell cannot be un-rung.
John Brock is a retired college professor and newspaper editor/publisher who lives in Georgetown County. He can be reached at this newspaper by mail or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.SouthernObserver.com.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
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