River Oaks Golf Plantation

The owner of River Oaks Golf Plantation wants to convert the nine-hole Bear Course into a residential area with 220 homes.

A proposal to convert nine holes of River Oaks Golf Plantation into a neighborhood received the support of the Horry County Planning Commission last week.

Commissioners and county staff said they approve of the 220-home project because of the property owner’s willingness to build sidewalks, set aside 8.5 acres for open space and provide land for the widening of River Oaks Drive.

“Those are all positives for that community,” said David Schwerd, the county’s interim director of planning and zoning. “[Being upset about] losing the golf course I can understand because I’m an avid golfer. … This isn’t the first one that the planning commission has seen or the last one we’re going to see in terms of rezoning golf courses. And they’re always a challenge.”

The rezoning could go before Horry County Council as early as Tuesday. A council agenda had not been published as of press deadlines.

River Oaks Golf Plantation was built in the mid-1980s by the Gray family, which still owns the property. The new plan calls for redeveloping the Bear Course and the landowner has asked for about 58 acres to be rezoned to accommodate the project.

During last week’s meeting, some residents objected to the development. They raised concerns about stormwater runoff causing flooding and the congestion from additional traffic.

“My biggest concern is flooding,” said Linda Oland, who owns a condo near the course. “It’s a very significant problem that truly, truly needs to be addressed.”

Norm Fay, a Carolina Forest resident, said many retirees in the area need recreation options and he worries about losing the nine golf holes.

“I urge you to consider more than just traffic and density when you look at this request,” he said, pointing out that several courses have closed in recent years. “These are open areas and once they’re gone, they’re gone. The golf course is gone. Build a house and it will never come back.”

Felix Pitts, an engineer representing the landowner, told commissioners that the development would meet the county’s stormwater regulations. He also pointed out the property already has a residential zoning, so some houses could be built there now.

County staff said the rezoning would allow about eight more lots on the site than the current zoning allows. As for the lost links, Pitts said that’s the natural result of the increased demand for housing along the Grand Strand.

“They’re going to start going away,” he said of the golf courses.

County staff seemed pleased with the proposal. Schwerd said that in recent years more than 300 acres in the River Oaks Drive area have been set aside for conservation, meaning the congestion on that road won’t be as bad as initially feared.

“Some of that density that was originally planned for that area has been removed and taken off the table,” he said. “So although eventually the road will need to be widened, this project will be providing their portion of it by providing the additional right of way along the road.”

Wayne Gray, whose father Dan built the course and served as the commission’s first chairman, said the open space in the project is important to his family. He said Dan Gray encouraged green space in redevelopment projects when he chaired the commission.

“We think that’s a good thing,” he said. “And we think that’s good land use.”

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