Horry County Council members have 75 days to decide whether to buy land for a road project that would connect the heart of Carolina Forest with S.C. 31.
Officials said the property is approximately 20 acres and the landowner is asking about $1.2 million for it.
The council’s infrastructure and regulation committee on Tuesday recommended that the county acquire that land for an interchange connecting Revolutionary War Way, Augusta Plantation Drive and S.C. 31. Their recommendation will go to the full council for a decision on the land purchase. County staff said the project is needed in that community.
“That would provide a relief valve in the middle of Carolina Forest and River Oaks and would keep [drivers] from having to go to 501 or International Drive,” said David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning. “Both intersections, as you know, are very congested.”
About 20 acres needed for the interchange lie in The Parks, a residential development spanning more than 400 acres that is under construction beside Carolina Forest Boulevard.
The property owner, Forestar (USA) Real Estate Group, has asked the county for an exemption to the county’s official map to allow the land in the road’s path to be possibly rezoned and developed.
But county planners and the committee are recommending that the official map remain as it is. That would preserve a path for the road in case funding is ever allocated for the interchange. The planning commission also recommended that the exemption not be approved.
If the full council follows this guidance, the county would have the option of working with the landowner to purchase the property. The county could also acquire it through the condemnation process. Officials said the landowner has cooperated with the county for several years on the route and they feel confident they can negotiate a sale.
“They are a willing seller,” Schwerd said. “What they don’t want to do is have to hold on to that 20-plus acres on their books forever and ever. They either want to be able to develop it so they can go ahead and sell that property, or they want to be able to sell it to the county. They’re more than willing to sell it to the county, which is why they set it aside to begin with. They know it would be a benefit to the community as a whole.”
But a key question remains.
“If there’s any money involved, where would it come from?” asked councilman Paul Prince.
Interim county administrator Steve Gosnell said that if the full council wants to pursue the sale, the landowner is asking for $60,000 per acre, which would make the price tag $1.2 million.
He said funding for the land could potentially come from hospitality fee revenues or surplus money from the RIDE II road-building program.
The total cost of the interchange is estimated at $47 million.
If the council doesn’t buy the land and allows the property to be developed, officials said the cost of building the interchange would increase because the county would then have to pay homeowners for their land and houses.