Two months ago, Horry County Council agreed to pursue 20 acres for a road project that would link Carolina Forest Boulevard with S.C. 31.
The only question was how the county would pay for that land.
County officials now appear to have an answer. The council’s infrastructure and regulation committee on Tuesday supported spending up to $1.5 million left over from the RIDE II road-building program to purchase the property. The land would be used for an interchange connecting S.C. 31, Augusta Plantation Drive and Revolutionary War Way. That project would provide an outlet for traffic on Carolina Forest Boulevard.
“The interchange is designed as a relief valve, basically, in the middle of Carolina Forest,” said David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning. “Everybody in the county will benefit if we can relieve the amount of traffic that goes from Carolina Forest onto [U.S.] 501 every day.”
The full council must decide if the county should use RIDE II money for the project. County officials are looking at other sources as well, including grants.
But the amount noted in the proposed resolution is higher than what county officials believe the property can be purchased for.
“It should be significantly less,” said Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner.
The land buy would preserve the property for the project, but county officials have said the $67 million needed to construct the interchange likely won’t be available until the county’s RIDE 4 road-building program, which could be more than a decade away.
The estimate for building the interchange had been $47 million when the RIDE III program was being developed. However, officials said the latest projection ($67 million) comes from the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study (GSATS).
"The costs may be more or less depending when the construction would occur," Schwerd said.
The proposed interchange had been considered for the county’s RIDE programs, though it wasn’t included. Just buying the land for the interchange has been years in the making.
County officials have been preparing to purchase the property 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.
At their June 18 meeting, council members had to decide whether to approve an exemption to the official map. Had they 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 20 acres sit inside the The Parks, a residential development spanning more than 400 acres that is under construction beside Carolina Forest Boulevard.
A decision about the future of the land must be made. If the county doesn’t purchase the property, officials would allow the landowner to pursue a rezoning for building single-family homes there.
“Council has to act one way or the other,” administrator Steve Gosnell said.
County officials stressed that purchasing the property now would be cheaper than allowing it to be developed and then paying homeowners for their lots and houses.