Collins Jollie Road development

A large crowd turned out recently at the Conway Recreation Department to learn more about a proposed rezoning for a huge development along both sides of Collins Jollie Road. Here, engineer Mike Wooten answers residents' questions.

The engineer who has designed a large development along both sides of Collins Jollie Road tried to convince a group of about 60 concerned neighbors that all development isn’t bad, but all of the people who attended the two-hour meeting didn’t appear to leave convinced.

Mike Wooten with DDC Engineering started the meeting with some ground rules, saying he didn’t plan to argue with anyone and if the meeting turned into an argument he’d leave.

“I’m not your enemy,” he said.

“Yeah, you are,” someone in the crowd responded.

Wooten told the group that if they are able to get the PD zone that they want they’ll provide an eight-acre passive park, not noisy with baseball or football fields.

They’ll keep a 25-foot buffer all around the property, put in 26 acres of retention ponds, devote four parcels to commercial ventures not large enough for a Walmart or Sam’s.

The city can then use the money from the development agreement to build a new fire station and hire more police and firemen, who can also cover other areas of the city.

With the R-1 zone, developers can build about 1,500 homes at the site that runs along both sides of Collins Jollie Road.

With the R-1 zone, lots must be 7,500-square-feet. Wooten and his team want smaller lots because they say that’s where the demand is. They also plan to reserve a section of the property for larger lots that will be closer to and more in keeping with the adjoining neighborhood.

The plan now shows two sections of multifamily housing that could add about another 450 homes to the development, but Wooten says he isn’t sure these will ever be built because demand for multifamily housing fluctuates.

He doesn’t expect any construction to start before at least another year and says the build-out is probably more than 20 years away.

Wooten says the property was bought years ago by a company planning to harvest the timber, but John Mock, who owns the property now, bought it to develop.

“It’s going to be developed. I want to be clear about that,” Wooten told the crowd gathered at the Conway Recreation Center.

Kristy Crigler, a resident of Ridgewood West, said her biggest concern wasn’t discussed at the meeting. She said she and her husband bought property 12 years ago in a Carolina Forest development. Since then construction has stopped and not been revived. She wonders what will happen if people don’t want to live in the 828-acre Collins Jollie development and they don’t want to pay a proposed $500 impact fee and 4 extra mills of taxes each year. Mike Wooten’s rezoning request applies to a portion of the property totaling 673.5 acres.

Crigler is also worried about the booming housing market.

“At what point is it going to crash again? I think we all know it’s going to crash again,” she said.

She also expressed concern that the planners of the subdivision are trying to leverage authorities by offering them many more amenities for a planned development (PD) than for the single-family R-1 zone that the property already has.

She says it’s as if they’re saying, “If you don’t let us have what we want, too bad, you’re getting R-1 with nothing.”

One person who didn’t go away unhappy was Earl Botkin, a Ridgewood West resident, who described himself as neutral about the issue, but he recognizes that a lot of his neighbors are very emotional about it.

“I didn’t see anything tonight that was really detrimental or anything like that…I’m not leaving with many concerns at all. I’m leaving with some of my fears alleviated,” he said.

Wooten assured the group that stormwater runoff problems will be improved by the new development.

Controlling stormwater has become a science, an art, he said.

He conceded that traffic will increase on Collins Jollie Road with the new development, but said planners have already commissioned a traffic study that is now in the hands of Horry County planners because, even though the property is within the Conway City Limits, Collins Jollie Road is a county road.

The plan calls for Collins Jollie to be three lanes with the center lane devoted to turning. There will also be nine turn lanes, if the plan is approved as drawn. Developers will pay for improvements to the road.

Dale Todd, owner of Rivertown Pharmacy said his business had flooded three times and he remembered them all as very disturbing. He said it took him a whole year to get somebody to say they were responsible for Crabtree Canal.

Todd said he lives in the area of the new development and is worried about traffic on Collins Jollie and Long Avenue Extension. He wondered if there might be a traffic light installed there, but Wooten said as a former member and chairman of the state’s Department of Transportation he knows how hard it is to get a traffic light.

He said he doesn’t think the development will create enough traffic to warrant one. He was much more open to the suggestion of a four-way stop.  

Wooten also said the area needs development. Tourism, he said, is the area’s number one moneymaker and development/construction is second employing thousands of people. Stopping or slowing it will have an impact that will flow throughout the county, he said.

Conway City Council candidate Barbara Eisenhardt told Wooten that she isn’t totally against development, but thinks infrastructure should come first, not later.

Wooten said if people want to see a subdivision that DDC Inc. developed that is similar to Collins Jollie they can go to DDCinc.com. He said Barefoot Resort, with 2,374 acres, is much larger than the proposed Collins Jollie development, but similar.

He also pointed people to Prestwick and Tidewater.

Jean Grimes indicated that it didn’t really matter what she thought about the information given at the meeting.

“…we know it’s already a done deal,” she said.

She thinks developers need to do more study on the area because of problems with flooding.

Still, she said, “It’s such a nice area out in that direction. I really feel they need to do more study on how the water goes there.”

During the meeting, New York transplant James DeCaro, who lives now in the Maple section, said he moved to Conway seeking peaceful country living. He doesn’t want the area to turn into another Carolina Forest.

As to Wooten’s comments that some kind of commercial establishment will keep these people from having to drive five miles for something as simple as a loaf of bread, DeCaro said he doesn’t mind driving five miles to buy a loaf of bread, and he said he’s already got good fire and police protection and he likes his lower taxes.

“This is a suburban life, not rural,” Wooten countered. “If you expected a rural life you moved to the wrong place.”

He said in the next 40 years, this area’s population is expected to grow by 40 percent.

The Conway Planning Commission will get its second look at the plan tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Conway City Hall.

Conway City Council will hold two public meetings on the rezoning request. They will be Oct. 7 and 21 at 5:30 p.m. during the regularly scheduled council meetings.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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