By Paul Gable
Horry County Council will consider third reading of a rezoning Tuesday night that would allow development of an anticipated 1,292 residential units plus some commercial space in the area of Old Buck Creek Rd. and Hwy 905 in rural Horry County.
The picture accompanying this story shows Buck Creek flooding Hwy 905 just south of this proposed development. A short distance downstream from the proposed development is the Aberdeen development that suffered considerable flooding that flowed over SC 9 closing that road for over one week. Several miles down Hwy 905 is the Polo Farms development that seriously flooded from the storm and suffers flooding during hard rainstorms.
The question must be asked, is this the time to approve a development of nearly 1300 homes to an area that is prone to flooding. Even if the property itself doesn’t flood after it is developed, do we really want 1300 new homeowners essentially cut off from the rest of the county when the next flood occurs.
And it’s not a question of if another flood of this type of magnitude will occur, but when. I can quickly think of three times in the last 19 years that SC 9 and Hwy 905 by Buck Creek have been cut off by floodwaters.
The county only developed a stormwater management plan after suffering the effects of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It can be argued that county officials have been trying to catch up with controlling flooding and the effects of new development on various areas of the county ever since. Aberdeen, Polo Farms, Forestbrook and areas in Bucksport come quickly to mind.
Another consideration is the paucity of first responders in the area. The nearest fire station to this proposed development is an all-volunteer station with no career, full-time personnel attached. This area is part of the North Police Precinct, which is understaffed with a large area to patrol for those few officers available on each shift.
Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers called this a great development during remarks he made to council during second reading of the ordinance last month. Maybe it is, but is this the right place and/or time for it?
Wooten also mentioned that the developer had agreed to pay $500 per unit at the time building permits are issued as a type of impact fee. This amounts to a total of slightly less than $650,000 spread over a 10 year period depending on how quickly build out occurs. This not enough nor probably not available in any timely manner to be of any use for the increased amount of county goods and services that will be expected and required.
In view of not only the most recent, severe flooding but also the increase in flooding events over the past several years, this would seem to be the time to put the brakes on approving new developments until Horry County has reviewed and updated its stormwater management.
Additionally, plans to increase the number of first responders available throughout the county should be in place and actively worked upon before developments of this size.
No amount of planning is going to stop the type of flooding suffered during Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Floyd or Hurricane Matthew. However, good planning can stop such flooding from affecting more people and their homes every year. Anyone purchasing a new home in Horry County should have the reasonable expectation that their new home won’t be damaged by flooding or cut off from the rest of the county by flooded roads. That simply is not the case at this time.
Ideally these types of considerations would be debated by a responsible council. However, I expect a majority of this council to exhibit the same type of laissez-faire approach to development approval that developers love and caveat emptor attitude toward buyers that the buyers come to hate only after they discover what wasn’t told to them about their new home and its location.