Horry County Council plans to set aside up to $1.5 million for a Carolina Forest interchange this week.
The money would pay for about 20 acres in the heart of The Forest. County officials expect to eventually build an interchange there that would connect Revolutionary War Way, Augusta Plantation Drive and S.C. 31. Officials said the project would provide a relief valve for traffic on Carolina Forest Boulevard.
“We need the right-of-way now even if the road’s not going to be built for years,” said councilman Dennis DiSabato, who lives in Carolina Forest. “If we didn’t didn’t do it now, that developer could have developed that tract of land and then we wouldn’t be able to build the interchange at a later date.”
Council members had planned to vote on the land purchase earlier this month, but that meeting was canceled as they made preparations for Hurricane Dorian.
The project is listed on the council’s consent agenda for Tuesday's meeting, which means they expect to approve spending that money without additional discussion.
Funding for the land would come from money left over from the county’s RIDE II road-building program, according to public records. County spokeswoman Kelly Moore said officials estimate they will have $20-30 million left over after all the projects in RIDE II are finished.
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 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,” David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning, has said.
The proposed interchange had been considered for the county’s earlier RIDE programs, but 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 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 beside the The Parks, a residential development spanning more than 400 acres that is under construction along 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.