By Paul Gable
The International Drive project is now awaiting its day in court.
According to sources familiar with the Administrative Law Court, the contested hearing before Administrative Law Judge Trip Anderson will be held sometime within the next 2-6 months.
Horry County has asked for an early hearing, but, if history on this project tells us anything, the Coastal Conservation League and its conservationist allies will delay as long as possible.
Since the SCDHEC Appeals Committee voted against a final review conference for the International Drive project, Horry County and the conservationists have had two face to face meetings and have exchanged several offers and counteroffers all to no avail.
A protest march before the Coastal Conservation League north coast office in Georgetown last month demonstrated the conservationists do not have public opinion on their side in this contest.
CCL and the SC Wildlife Federation requested a meeting with representatives of the groups that organized the protest, but that will not happen, according to sources familiar with the request.
That is probably a good thing because the typical tactic of the CCL and its allies is ‘divide and conquer.’
They haven’t counted on the determination of the homeowners in the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 areas that will be helped by the construction of International Drive nor their unity in supporting the project.
In the filing to the ALC, the CCL and SCWF questioned whether there was a valid need for the road. They attempted to make a case that widening and other improvements to U.S. 501 are reasonable alternatives to the International Drive project. Those of us who live here know that is a ridiculous assertion.
International Drive has been on the county’s radar for 15 years or so. Years before it became an approved project in the Ride II referendum, Horry County was asking developers if they would voluntarily contribute funds to the International Drive project.
Former Horry County attorney John Weaver claimed that was extortion and reported the requests to SLED. SLED followed up with an investigation and found nothing to Weaver’s claim.
But, Weaver never was for the International Drive project. He and SCDNR attorney Buford Mabry next introduced the red cockaded woodpeckers into the stalling discussions.
From there, it has been one obstacle after another that has been thrown into the path of the International Drive project.
Maybe that will soon come to an end.
The county’s case appears to be strong enough not only to win the day in court but also to obtain a ruling of no merit from Judge Anderson which would negate any further appeal on the part of the conservationists.
We can only hope.