By Paul Gable
Horry County Council deferred consideration of second reading of an ordinance to rezone a parcel of land on Four Mile Road until its first meeting in February 2020.
The deferral was taken to allow the developer to discuss a stormwater runoff plan for the project with county planning staff that will address concerns of surrounding residents.
However, after listening to public input from both sides of the rezoning, those opposing it and the developer, and to questions from council, it seems obvious that requesting the stormwater plan is a delaying tactic.
While stormwater runoff has to be a consideration with any current or future development, especially when considering the flooding that has happened in the county in three of the last five years, it is not the central issue of contention in this particular rezoning.
The central issue is that this particular parcel is inside the boundaries of what is known as the 319 Area Plan, a plan adopted in 2011 whose goal is to protect the rural heritage of this corridor between Conway and Aynor.
The 319 Area Plan stipulates that single family housing requires half acre lots for each home built. The rezoning request is for quarter acre lots for 202 single family homes.
However, the current zoning for the parcel is commercial forest agriculture (CFA) a zoning designation that predates the adoption of and is grandfathered into the 319 Area Plan.
CFA zoning allows multi-family housing with a density of three units per acre for the gross acreage being developed. This means the developer can build, on this parcel, a total of 387 multi-family units without any approval from council required.
The 319 Area Plan cannot stop the multi-family development. The public input from those opposing the rezoning and questions from some council members appeared to demonstrate ignorance of that fact.
Furthermore, as county staff made clear during the discussions, the 319 Area Plan is a guide to development of properties within its boundaries but can be superseded by a vote of council to approve smaller lot size. The plan is not written in stone, so to speak.
The real issue for consideration by the residents opposing the rezoning is do they want 202 single family units or 387 multi-family units developed on the property?
The developer made perfectly clear he would move forward with multi-family units on the property if the rezoning request for his single family development plan is voted down. He also made perfectly clear he doesn’t want to do that but will, if necessary, to protect his investment and those of other investors in the property.
While multi-family housing is not considered potential development in areas of the county, it could fit quite well in this location. The parcel is located quite close to the municipal border of the City of Conway. Several sources have told GSD it could be considered for annexation into the city in the next year or so.
If it is annexed, the parcel would automatically be removed from the 319 Area Plan since that is a county (unincorporated area) corridor only.
Additionally, there is a need for affordable housing in the Conway area, town homes, condominiums or apartments, which a multi-family development on this parcel would serve.
It is expected another community meeting, with community members, county officials and the developer attending, will be conducted before the rezoning request is again considered by council at its first meeting in February. It would be prudent for the real issue and its potential on the parcel to be discussed regardless of any future possibility of annexation, which would make the entire issue moot.