By Paul Gable
A rezoning request in the Tilly Swamp community is raising questions about how Horry County officials approve development.
The rezoning request received first reading approval from Horry County Council at its last regular meeting before being sent to the Planning Commission and Infrastructure and Regulation Committee.
The request is from Bear Claw Associates, Bear Paw Associates and Bear Bone to allow for more houses to be built on two currently undeveloped lots owned by the named LLC’s. The request is to reduce lot size from SF 10 to SF 7 on previously rezoned land and to change zoning from Commercial Forest Agriculture (CFA) to SF 7 on land not included in the previous rezoning.
If the request is approved, approximately 1,500 new homes will be built in what is considered an environmentally sensitive area of Horry County, with the larger of the two lots adjacent on three sides to the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.
The lots in question are in an area designated as scenic and conservation in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040.
According to S.C. Secretary of State records, the registered agent for the LLC’s is Keith Hinson owner of Waccamaw Land and Timber with the 4705 Oleander Drive, Myrtle Beach, SC address of Waccamaw Land and Timber as the registered address of the LLC’s. Hinson is a longtime friend, associate and business partner of outgoing Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.
According to longtime residents of the area near the requested rezoning, access to the proposed rezoning was cut off during the flooding from the recent Hurricane Florence. Additionally, the 2009 wildfire in the area burned 2,000 acres of the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve and threatened the land being considered for rezoning.
Fire and EMS services are listed as 3.99 miles away on the county Planning staff rezoning review sheet, but that appears to be inaccurate. The old Nixonville firehouse on Hwy 90 has always been a volunteer staffed unit with few, if any, volunteers left. Information provided to GSD said the building is currently used only for storage.
The closest fire stations for response to the proposed rezoning area now appear to be either Lees Landing or Wampee, both of which are approximately seven or more miles distant.
Access to the lots are via Old Hwy 90 and Old Reaves Ferry Road, both of which are country, two lane roads.
Mike Wooten of DDC Engineering is acting as agent for the properties. He has proposed the developer contribute $1,000 per house to upgrade access to the proposed development for emergency services vehicles. Wooten told a Horry County Planning Commission workshop held on October 25, 2018 that the property would be developed by the offer would not hold if the rezoning request is denied leaving the SF 10 zoning in place.
Why should access to the area be limited to an old highway if any development is going to be completed?
Why have a Horry County Comprehensive Plan if developers are going to ask for it to be ignored just to satisfy their desires?
The recommendation from county staff is to deny this requested rezoning because of the limited access on old, country roads;lack of police, fire and EMS personnel to serve the area and because the requested zoning is not in conformance to the comprehensive plan.
Why the current rush to get rezonings approved when a more reasoned approach would better serve all citizens?