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Cherie Reid stands by a table with petitions as more than two dozen people stop to talk about an Horry County Planning Commission meeting to discuss the rezoning of a spit of land off Gardner Lacy Road across from RidgeWood Plantation townhomes. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Facing pressure from neighbors, Horry County Council on Tuesday rejected a rezoning request for 58 single-family homes in Carolina Forest.

The 10-2 vote doesn’t mean the property owner can’t develop the site — a representative for the applicant said 69 housing units, a combination of single-family homes and townhouses, could be constructed under the existing zoning — but the developer’s preferred building proposal was denied.

“If it was your home, I don’t think this would be a question,” Southcreek resident Cherie Reid told the council. “I think this would be denied. You have the power to prevent more people from having their lives disrupted and their quality of life changed. … You have to think about the residents, and not for these builders who actually build and then bail.”

The 58-home plan was actually the second proposal made by the developer. The original plan called for building 105 townhomes along Gardner Lacy Road just past Carolina Forest High School. That project was scheduled to be reviewed at a planning commission workshop in February, but the developer chose to postpone that presentation so engineers and county staff could meet with neighbors.

The March 8 meeting drew well over 100 people, many of whom voiced concerns about the potential for traffic and flooding issues with the project. Some also stressed the need for an additional outlet road, specifically the extension of Gardner Lacy to International Drive.

The backlash at that meeting led to a redesign and the 58-home plan, which was designed to blend the new houses with the surrounding neighborhoods, including Clear Pond, Waterford Plantation and Southcreek.

“We have worked every step of the way to compromise with the community,” said Felix Pitts of G3 Engineering, the firm representing the applicant. Pitts noted that outdoor storage businesses or a retail strip center could be built on the land today. He also pointed out that the redesign included other improvements, such as buffering the wetlands on the property and adding a privacy fence for some residents.

“I’ve done about all I can do,” he said.

Yet residents still objected to the revised plans, saying they were worried about the impact of the development on traffic and flooding. Some residents repeated those concerns during a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday.

“Make them go back and make them start over,” said Carole vanSickler, who lives in Waterford.

Some council members felt that the developer had made enough concessions.

Councilman Johnny Vaught, whose district included a portion of the proposed development, said he didn’t like Pitts’ initial design because the townhomes didn’t mesh with the other neighborhoods in that community. However, he liked the revised plan.

“He put together something that fits in with the communities that are out there,” Vaught said, adding that the homes would be the same quality as the nearby neighborhoods. “What’s wrong with this? I don’t see anything wrong with it. Every complaint that was raised at that meeting was addressed by Mr. Pitts when he went back and did this redesign.”

But most council members sided with the neighbors.

“The residents out there have lived it,” councilman Bill Howard said, referring to flooding concerns. “It’s been a rough go of it. If we continue to build out there, it’s just going to back it up. … I’m looking at a picture of it right here. And what you see around this whole neighborhood is swamp. There’s no doubt.”

Howard said he visited the site Monday and didn’t like the way the nearby neighborhoods retained water.

“That place is overbuilt,” he said. “We need to slow it down. If they want to build commercial or whatever, they can. But I think the residents should have their way.”

When asked about the developer’s plans, Pitts declined to comment.

More Postal Way development coming

While council members denied the Gardner Lacy rezoning, they did support a zoning change for a development on the other end of Postal Way.

That project calls for building 330 townhomes on a 35-acre tract between the Planet Fitness building and Canterbury Apartments. A third favorable vote later this month would finalize the rezoning for this development.

Another Postal Way townhome project is also in the works. On Thursday, the Horry County Planning Commission is expected to discuss a rezoning request to accommodate 154 townhomes on about 21 acres.

A 10-lot commercial development called Chatham Crossing will front U.S. 501 near this project, according to county records.  A new road for Chatham Crossing would be constructed and it would run from U.S. 501 to a roundabout on Postal Way.  The roundabout would be built to accommodate the townhome project.

“I like roundabouts,” Horry County Planning Commission Chairman Steven Neeves said during a workshop last week. “They slow people down.”

The townhome project would back up to a railroad line and The Wizard Golf Club.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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