By Paul Gable
The flooding from Hurricane Florence has Horry County residents questioning the thought process behind continued rezoning development approvals by Horry County Council without consideration of the overall impact they will have on quality of life.
The latest ‘hot button’ issue is a proposed rezoning in the Tilly Swamp area that would allow approximately 1,500 new homes to be built on what are collectively known as the Bear properties, an area that is already strained for resources.
A new 900 unit RV park and an approximately 110 unit new housing development are already in the process of being developed in the area.
Access to the proposed development will be on small two-lane roads, Old Reaves Ferry Road and Old Hwy 90, off of the current Hwy 90. Current police, fire and EMS services appear to be insufficient for the introduction of over 1,600 new homes and 900 RV units in the area.
Stormwater is another issue. Hurricane Florence saw homes in the area suffer flooding for the first time in history while roads in the area have been closed due to flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the recent Hurricane Florence.
One lifetime local resident said the Bear properties are sandy and act like a sponge to draw water in during heavy rain events. He said there is no telling what new flooding may occur in the area if it is paved over with impervious surfaces.
The area is designated ‘Scenic and Conservation’ in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040. Counties are required by state law to update comprehensive plans every 10 years. Those plans are adopted by county council with a three reading ordinance.
Comprehensive plans are meant to be a planning tool for county goods and services needed, not something adopted to satisfy the state and be ignored until the next one is due.
Both the Horry County Planning staff and Horry County Planning Commission have recommended disapproving the proposed rezoning of the Bear properties. However, it is up for second reading and public review at the regular meeting of council tomorrow night.
Concerned citizens met last week in the Tilly Swamp area to discuss the new rezoning. It was interesting that the meeting drew not only citizens from the Tilly Swamp area who will be directly impacted, but also citizens from Little River, Socastee and Bucksport who are concerned with how this development will impact their areas during future heavy rain events.
The general tenor of the meeting was that the county must do a better job of looking beyond the immediate area of proposed rezonings to potential impacts throughout the county.
One citizen asked why the county is always playing catch up to development. She asked, “Shouldn’t new infrastructure and other county services be in place before, or at least during, the time new homes are being built?”
Horry County Council member Danny Hardee graciously attended that citizens meeting. The proposed rezoning is not in Hardee’s Council District Ten, but is close to his district lines.
Hardee spoke of the information provided to council on the proposed rezoning including a developer offer of approximately $4.5 million, with $3.3 million going to road improvements to service the proposed development and $1.2 million going to aid public safety upgrades. Hardee reiterated to the citizens that the area is already zoned for approximately 1,000 new homesites, a rezoning completed before the current comprehensive plan. He stated the developer would not provide the $4.5 million if the requested rezoning to increase density to 1,500 homesites is not approved.
It is interesting to note that development could already be proceeding on the Bear properties, but is not. The only action is a request from the property owners to increase the density of homes on the properties.
With that fact in mind, it is questionable if the properties will immediately be developed if the proposed rezoning is disapproved by council.
During a question and answer period, Hardee said he thought the rezoning should be deferred until the new council chairman takes office in January 2019. Asked directly if he would make that motion, Hardee responded “Yes”.
It is unclear how this issue will proceed tomorrow night at council. Citizens’ concerns about effective planning for infrastructure and services by county officials for proposed new development areas are certainly justified.
With Hurricane Florence immediately in the rear view mirror, it seems wise to take a breath and ensure that plans are on track so new developments will have the necessary county goods and services in place when homes are occupied.