Big changes are coming to the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex.
On Monday, the city council passed first reading of two ordinances detailing the extension of Champions Boulevard, the approval of several new developments along Champions Boulevard and an option for the city to buy 96 acres to expand the sports park to the south.
The ordinances will allow for a couple of new developments.
One is capped at 750 units and can be built along the future extension of Champions Boulevard. Plans call for Champions Boulevard to be extended to Long Bay Road, and eventually, to Water Tower Road. The land is owned by the Sandridge Group, and the ordinance calls for the city to reimburse the company up to $1,050,000 by the end of 2022 if Sandridge elects to extend Champions Boulevard before the city does.
The other development will be built along roughly 15.5 acres of land between the existing Champions Boulevard and the Park Pointe neighborhood.
On June 4, the planning commission forwarded a favorable recommendation for that development, despite some opposition from locals who weren’t thrilled about the possibility of having an apartment building in their backyard.
But the new zoning, which allows for mid-rise apartment buildings, is a lower density. The previous zoning for commercial allowed the possibility of stores or even four-story hotels. Those projects would have generated more traffic than mid-rise apartments, which are allowed under the proposed zoning.
Planning Director James Wood said that when approving a rezoning the city can’t base a decision off a promise made by a developer, but instead consider the worst possible outcome.
“What you do is you analyze it based on what you think the worst-case scenario is,” Wood added. “If you’ve got a district that allows single-family and multi-family, and they come in and say ‘Well, we only want to do single-family,’ you say ‘Well, that’s nice of you to say that, but you could change your mind tomorrow. So we can’t make our analysis based on what you said, we have to make our analysis based on the worst-case scenario.’ What if this goes all multi-family? Then what? That’s how we analyze straight zoning.”
And Sandridge could indeed put in commercial businesses where the development is now planned.
“It was zoned for different types of commercial,” said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “Anywhere from restaurants, to spas, just about anything. You have to weigh it out. Would you rather have residents or would you rather have commercial? Some you heard tonight said they were looking forward to the commercial. Others may not enjoy trucks pulling up a at 2 O’clock in the morning to unload, and that sort of thing.”
The area’s growing population could have make it an attractive site for some commercial businesses. But the rezoning is more compatible with the existing Park Pointe neighborhood, said Sean Hoelscher, a senior landscape architect with DDC Engineers, Sandridge’s authorized agent for the rezoning.
“What drives commercial are rooftops,” Hoelscher said. “The inclusion of rooftops in the surrounding area creates more of a viable market for commercial; certainly, the park itself being a driver of commercial activity as well. It’s still viable at that point. The possibility is there.”
Rezoning aside, Park Pointe residents are getting a win out of the ordinances that passed first reading on Monday. Champions Boulevard is getting another lane.
Right now, the road has two west-bound lanes where it intersects at Robert Edge Parkway, but they quickly get cut down to one. The proposed plans will extend the second lane all the way to Park Pointe, ending in a designated turning lane.
City spokesman Pat Dowling said the extra lane will relieve congestion during major events like the Christmas light show, when it will be reserved for residents trying to get into their neighborhood.
A proposed amendment to the Sandridge Development Agreement that allows for the new development off the Champions Boulevard extension also gives the city the option to buy 96 acres to expand the sports park to the south.
City attorney Chris Noury said the city and Sandridge have agreed to the price of the land, and it will become public in a few months.
“We’re going to have a budget adjustment to the ordinance and we’ll bring that forward,” Noury said. “We anticipate doing that in July or August."
Hatley said although it’s not in stone, she expects the new land to be used for more athletic facilities.
“We will sit down and make that decision, but I’m sure it will be adding more soccer fields, maybe more baseball fields,” Hatley said. “At this time, we are at capacity. We are a sell-out for our sports complex, and to be able to grow, we’ll have to enlarge our sports complex. Of course, anything can change.”
Finally, the amendment to the development agreement is a step in resolving a 2-year-old lawsuit the city filed against Sandridge in 2017 over the extension of Champions Boulevard.
“It was primarily over the road for the extension of Champions Boulevard, and the amendment to the development agreement will help us resolve that issue,” Noury said. “They’re going to be conveying the land to use for that long ribbon of property where Champions Boulevard will eventually be located. We’re also acquiring an additional property for the sports park, and all of that’s assisting with the resolution of the lawsuit that the city initiated against Sandridge.”
The ordinances will still have to pass a second reading before going into effect.