By Paul Gable
Documents obtained by Grand Strand Daily raise some questions about recent media reports regarding the planned Institute for Principled Development at Coastal Carolina University.
According to media reports, the institute will be housed at the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration at CCU. Barbara Ritter PhD, Dean of the College of Business Administration, said the institute will be an impartial and credible source for those seeking answers to some of the complex planning and development issues facing the region and it will provide unbiased, data-driven analysis to Horry County’s growth.
Robert Salvino Jr. PhD, professor of economics and director of the Grant Center for Real Estate and Economics at CCU, will reportedly oversee the institute.
The institute is funded almost exclusively by developers, builders, realtors, engineers and associated development industry firms. According to a document obtained by Grand Strand Daily, as of September 2019, the institute had funding commitments of $152,666 for 2019 and $409,500 in three year pledges. The largest contributors are Burroughs and Chapin, DDC Engineers, Clay and Matthew Brittain, Ocean Sands Resort, Palmetto Corporation, Ralph and Tradd Teal and Waccamaw Land and Timber each pledging $30,000 over three years.
According to the media reports, the first step is to hire an executive director for the institute and next to craft an advisory board to address questions surrounding development. The reports state the institute is set to launch in spring 2020.
However, Grand Strand Daily obtained a document that names a five member Board of Advisors elected July 31, 2019 for the “Institute for Responsible Development in the Wall College of Business Administration at Coastal Carolina University.” The name of the institute was reported as Institute for Responsible Development in news articles last week. “Responsible” was changed to “Principled” in a press release from CCU over the weekend.
Members of the Board of Advisors listed in the above named document are Mark Lazarus, Chairman, Drew Flynn and Tradd Teal, Co-Vice Chairmen, Clay Brittain, Secretary and Horry County Council member Gary Loftus, Ad Hoc Member.
Additionally, Grand Strand Daily obtained a document dated November 6, 2019 stating Dr. Salvino submitted a proposal to Horry County Administrator Steve Gosnell to review the County’s Imagine 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The review would be completed in 60 days at a cost to the county of $40,000, according to the document.
According to a document obtained by Grand Strand Daily, a meeting of the Institute for Responsible Development was held on November 6, 2019 at the Del Webb Clubhouse in Grande Dunes. The meeting had 53 attendees including Dr. Ritter, Dr. Salvino and all members of the Board of Advisors. The remaining attendees were almost exclusively from the developer, builder, real estate and engineering sectors of the development industry.
Why does the university say a Board of Advisors is yet to be crafted when documents show a board already exists and regular meetings are being held?
How can an institute not scheduled to be active until spring 2020 already have prepared a proposal to review the county’s comprehensive plan over an immediate 60 day period?
A review of the Imagine 2040 Comprehensive Plan is on the minds of many of the contributors to the institute.
Benji Hardee of A.O. Hardee and Son told a September 2019 meeting of Horry County Council to make sure the plan does not discourage development and harm thousands of people employed in the construction industry.
Keith Hinson of Waccamaw Land and Timber and Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers told The State newspaper that developers need a voice.
“The purpose of this (the institute) is so that we will have a voice,’’ Wooten was quoted as saying in The State article.
“The college is involved with us to have a voice about responsible growth and development,” The State article quoted Hinson.
In another document obtained by Grand Strand Daily, Mark Lazarus, chairman of the Board of Advisors and ‘resident political consultant’ for Waccamaw Land and Timber, instructed institute members how to make presentations to county council ending with “Remind them (council) that you are part of what makes Horry County’s economy tick, and that you vote.” Lazarus is a former chairman of county council having been defeated in a 2018 reelection bid by current chairman Johnny Gardner.
In the same document, another unidentified member asked whether the institute could “have information on the individuals who are against building? Where did they move from, does their income come from retirement/pension, etc..”
The goal of the contributors to the institute appears to be a lobbying entity for their interests. The stated goal of the university is fairness with fact driven findings in studies conducted.
An obvious question is whether the university institute will be able to remain neutral and fact driven with its studies considering the apparent objectives of its contributors?
President Ronald Reagan was famous for his quote “trust but verify”. Here it appears the attitude must be verify that the findings of a few studies from the institute are non-partisan and unbiased, then maybe some trust will result.