Postal Way Rezonings Back on Council Agenda with No Changes from Three Months Ago

By Paul Gable

Horry County Council will consider second reading and hold public input on the two controversial rezonings along Postal Way at its regular meeting tomorrow night.

The two parcels of land, Waters Tract and Chatham Crossing, will add 1,654 new residential units and some new commercial development in an already crowded area.

The rezonings were deferred for a period of 92 days at the request of council member Dennis DiSabato, ostensibly to see if criticisms of the rezonings, voiced by Carolina Forest residents, could be addressed in the development agreements associated with the projects.

According to the language in the development agreements, which will be considered for second reading, nothing has changed in either development agreement from what was presented to council three months ago.

The projects have had DiSabato’s support because he said the developers had agreed to pay for all new public infrastructure associated with the projects. The development agreements tell a different story. The wording contained in the two development agreements and the county’s cost estimates leave funding from the developers approximately $4 million short of the overall estimated cost of the new infrastructure, provided by the county Planning Department.

The main public benefit improvements from the two projects, identified by Horry County Planning and Zoning Department, are a Frontage Road, named an onsite improvement and adding a third lane to Postal Way and a new traffic light and intersection improvements on U. S. 501.  The Postal Way third lane, new traffic light and intersection improvements on 501 are named offsite improvements.

The proposed development agreement with the Waters Tract development specifically states, the offsite improvements (unnamed) “shall be installed, constructed and paid for by the County.”

In consideration of the county funded improvements, the Waters Tract developers agreed to contribute $1,500 per density unit to the county. For those contributions, the Waters Tract developers will not have to pay impact fees to the county, which are currently approximately $1,300 per unit, (more for commercial development), with the county currently considering an increase in that amount. The Waters Tract developers will actually be paying less to the county in contributions than if they had to pay impact fees on the new development.

Additionally, there is no consideration for new schools, which may be caused by the new housing units, in either development agreement, which means the county taxpayers will be totally on the hook if new schools are needed. Carolina Forest area schools are already at or exceeding the maximum student population they were designed for.

Some county council members have reportedly been told if the county votes against these rezonings, the City of Conway is ready to annex the Chatham Crossing and Waters Tract parcels and approve rezonings for them. Two Conway city council members I have spoken with denied any knowledge of such alleged annexation.

If, in fact, some Conway city council members are in favor of annexation of the two parcels, if the county rezonings fail, the county loses nothing. It gains by not being on the hook for offsite improvements associated with the Waters Tract development as well as not having to consider additional police and fire protection for the new developments. Those additional service requirements would become an issue for Conway. Turning down the rezonings could actually be called a gain for county government.

The county raised property tax millage countywide by 3.5 mills for the current fiscal year to basically pay for new services in the Carolina Forest area. That increase does not consider new goods and services, which may be required, if the Postal Way rezonings are approved by the county.

And there are still the concerns of current Carolina Forest residents for county council to consider. The residents aren’t buying the fact that just because developers are paying for some extra infrastructure is reason to support the projects. Residents have voiced continued concerns that adding any more housing density to the already crowded Carolina Forest area will only add more overcrowding to already clogged roads and schools.

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