Elliott and Mercado: Cap on density just one of several key reforms

COASTAL OBSERVER
January 27, 2022

By Clint Elliott and Stella Mercado

We live on the Waccamaw Neck because it’s a beautiful place along the ocean with Spanish moss draped live oaks, access to miles of estuaries and rivers, and low country charm. It has a great quality of life and it’s so important to keep it that way.

That can’t happen unless residential growth is well controlled and managed. Georgetown County cannot allow more residential units to be built here than our infrastructure can handle. We cannot become another Myrtle Beach.

We support the goal of no net residential density increases on the Waccamaw Neck. Our infrastructure just can’t handle it.

There are dormant projects on the Waccamaw Neck with thousands of approved residential units just waiting to be built. The Arcadia East project alone has about 3,000 units already approved for development. When built, these units will add about six car trips a day each on Highway 17, a road already stretched beyond design limits.

According to a traffic congestion report by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, service for Highway 17 through the Waccamaw Neck in 2035 will be at a “D” to “F” level, unless significant and expensive upgrades are made to the highway.

We think it’s important that the county land use plan update include strong language to curb net residential density increases on the Waccamaw Neck and call on the planning commission and county council to ensure its inclusion in the plan.

We’re also committed to greater transparency concerning the rezoning process. We support a process that gives the community and affected property owners full and complete rezoning application information on a timely basis.

Currently, as part of a rezoning application, each property owner within 400 feet of a proposed rezoning must be mailed a public hearing notice 21 days in advance of the hearing with a map of where the rezoning is proposed. The 400-foot criteria for notification is only equivalent to the length of an average city block, woefully inadequate as many more adjacent property owners are affected by rezonings.

We support at least doubling the property owner notification requirement to 800 feet.

It’s so important for affected property owners and the community to be able to access planning commission agendas and the all-important briefing materials on rezonings, which include the applications and staff recommendations, well in advance of planning commission meetings.

Currently, this information can be posted on the county’s website in as few as four days in advance of a planning commission meeting, leaving very little time for those affected by rezonings to react. We support requiring the agenda and briefing materials to be posted online no later than 10 days in advance of a planning commission meeting.

Finally, it may seem unusual for two county council candidates running in different districts to team up for an opinion piece like this. We think it’s important to show unity on issues affecting the Waccamaw Neck, particularly on land use and our quality of life.

If elected, we’re committed to working together for the betterment of the Waccamaw Neck.

The writers are candidates for County Council Districts 1 and 6 respectively.