Sunbelt Ventures, the company that wants to redevelop Pawleys Plaza, is trying to get its side of the story out in advance of the Georgetown County Planning Commission meeting next week.
When Sunbelt’s plans were made public last month, a 119,500-square-foot store pictured on the site plan was rumored to be a Walmart.
Dusty Wiederhold, a partner in Sunbelt, denied that a deal has been done and said Sunbelt has pitched its plans for the plaza to several national retailers.
“We have no commitment from Walmart,” Wiederhold said Wednesday. “Ultimately we’ll sit down and see who is the best tenant for this shopping center.”
Sunbelt’s plan calls for everything in Pawleys Plaza to be demolished except for the Bank of America building. There will be new retail space built along Highway 17 and the 119,500-square-foot store will be built in the back of the site. Sunbelt purchased some land behind the plaza and the combined property is 17.77-acres.
Because it will be farther than 500 feet from Highway 17, the 119,500-square-foot store does not have to conform to the county’s architectural standards or 45,000-square-foot limit on commercial buildings.
“We think what this plan offers is a significant upgrade to what’s there now,” said James Wooten, president of DDC Engineers, the company that created the site plan.
If approved, the plaza would become Pawleys Island Village.
Opposition to the proposal was immediate and vocal. Rallying cries of “Don’t Box the Neck” could be heard up and down Waccamaw Neck, harkening back to 2005 when Lowe’s Home Improvement wanted to build a store on Highway 17 at the South Causeway.
After more than 1,000 people – most opposed to the Lowe’s – showed up for a Planning Commission meeting, County Council rejected the proposal.
Wiederhold said his proposal is different than the Lowe’s plan because Sunbelt wants to redevelopment a dilapidated shopping center, whereas Lowe’s wanted to build on undeveloped piece of land.
He also believes Walmart is a “lightning rod” for people.
“It is difficult to get people to listen to you if they have a preconceived notion that is bad for the county,” Wiederhold said. “There has been so much conversation about something that hasn’t happened.”
Wiederhold and Wooten have been meeting with county officials, the media and community groups, and will be hosting a public meeting on Monday at Pawleys Island Community Church. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and Wiederhold will give a presentation on the redevelopment plans at 6 p.m. There will be a question and answer session after.
Sunbelt’s plans will go before the Planning Commission on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Waccamaw High School. The county planning staff will make its recommendation and then the commission will vote to send the proposal to County Council with a recommendation to approve or deny.
County Council will give first reading by title only at its Oct. 9 meeting. A discussion and second vote will take place on Oct. 23, with a final vote on Nov. 13.
Wiederhold said if the rezoning is approved, it will be a long process before anyone is shopping at Pawleys Island Village.
By Chris Sokoloski
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