Horry County Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to acquire about 20 acres for an interchange project in the heart of Carolina Forest.
The property is expected to cost $1.2 million and would be used for an interchange connecting S.C. 31, Augusta Plantation Drive and Revolutionary War Way.
"It's going to give us the ability to work something out with the landowner to make sure that that land is preserved to do the interchange on 31 whenever we have the funds available to build that interchange," said councilman Dennis DiSabato, whose district includes part of Carolina Forest.
County officials have been preparing to purchase this land since they placed the interchange on the county’s official map in 2017. Adding the interchange to the map gave the county the first opportunity to buy the property.
On Tuesday night, council members had to decide whether to approve an exemption to the official map. If they had agreed to the exemption, they would have allowed the property owner, Forestar Real Estate Group, to pursue a rezoning for developing the property.
But they did not approve the exemption — which is what the planning commission and county staff had asked them to do — and that signaled their intent to move forward with acquiring the land.
The county will have the option of working with the landowner and purchasing the property or the county could acquire the site through the condemnation process.
County staffers have said they can likely negotiate a sale with Forestar for about $60,000 an acre. They said funding for the land could potentially come from surplus money in the RIDE II roads program.
"That's probably the best resource available for something like that," DiSabato said.
The 20 acres sit inside the The Parks, a residential development spanning more than 400 acres that is under construction beside Carolina Forest Boulevard.
Although Forestar paid $40,000 an acre for the land, county staff said purchasing the property now would be cheaper than allowing it to be developed and then paying homeowners for their lots and houses.
The proposed interchange, which is projected to cost $47 million to construct, had been considered for the county’s RIDE programs, though it wasn’t included.
“It was a high priority,” said David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning. “It just barely missed the cut. … That is a needed project. It is in our long-range transportation plan.”