Collins Jollie Road

This is the area out Collins Jollie Road that developers want to transform into a very large subdivision. Nearby neighbors like their bucolic setting and they're not happy about losing it.

The engineer helping to plan a new subdivision with slightly fewer than 2,000 homes out Collins Jollie Road says when large developments are planned emotion can overtake fact.

To help correct that problem in this case, Mike Wooten has scheduled a meeting at the Conway Recreation Center for Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. with any citizen who wants to become better educated about the project that is also set to include commercial space and a new city park.

“What we try to do is cut through the emotion and get to the facts. When we’re able to do that, we’re able to remove most of the angst,” the engineer said.

In a meeting with a city council committee this week, Wooten talked about his request for more homes on the 673.5 acres that he wants to see rezoned. The entire parcel is actually 828 acres, but the remaining section is not up for rezoning at this time. The rezoning request he is asking to allow developers to build about 250 more residences than the current R-1 zone allows, but it will enable them to have more open space and to give two acres to the city for a new fire station.

However, city officials have now come up with a way to move the existing Country Club Drive station farther down U.S. 701 North to a location nearer to Highway 65 that Administrator Adam Emrick says will actually give some current Conway residents better coverage than they have now. Moving the station instead of building a new one, he says will save the city the cost of hiring more staffers and buying new equipment and new fire trucks. If the new station isn’t moved or a new one built, Fire Chief Le Hendrick said many of the residences in the new development would be uninsurable.

But Wooten says that area won’t be developed for at least five or six years so any action on the fire station doesn’t have to be immediate.

At a recent meeting of the Conway Planning Commission some residents of Ridgewood West expressed concerns about how the new development that snuggles up to their subdivision will affect them.

Wooten says planners have given every consideration to impacting area residents as little as possible. The only thing that will affect them at all is a required ingress and egress that will open into Ridgewood West, he said.

Wooten says at the recent Planning Commission meeting he heard residents say that the development will increase flooding and make the traffic horrible. Both are untrue, according to Wooten, who says stormwater will actually be better with the development and developers must commission a traffic study. Whatever the study tells them to do, they will do, he said.

He figures that each single family residence will add seven trips a day to nearby roads and each multifamily home will generate ten additional trips.

He also doesn’t expect all of the traffic to go to Collins Jollie Road. Many residents will head in the other direction taking Highway 668 to S.C. 19, to S.C. 905 and on to S.C. 22.

Another benefit of the new development will be some type of business that will keep residents from having to go all the way into town for something as simple as a loaf of bread, like they are forced to do now.

The current zoning requires 7,500-square-foot lots, which Wooten says were selling when Burroughs & Chapin annexed the property into the city. That’s not true anymore, according to Wooten, who said the trend now is for much smaller lots and smaller houses. Burroughs & Chapin sold the property and it is now owned by Collins Jolly Holding, Inc., whose owner representative is John Mock.

Although 636 of the units are designed for multifamily, Wooten doesn’t think that will be the final result. He says the market for multifamily is lagging now and he thinks ultimately this area will go to single family.

Saying they already have buyers for some of the tracts on the property, Wooten hopes to see the development approved and ready to get underway by the first of the year.

Wooten defended the size of the project saying larger projects are preferable to smaller ones because they allow for sidewalks, better landscaping, open space, parks and other amenities that smaller projects can’t afford.

Although the project will require more policemen and firemen and other city employees, Wooten says the developers think it will pay for itself.

“There’s a lot of argument out there that development doesn’t pay for itself. Now I’m on the other side of that,” he said.

They plan to use a provision in state law to collect more income from the new residents. Called a Municipal Improvement District, if approved, the MID will be Conway’s first. In fact, some of those at Monday’s meeting were not familiar with the term.

This district allows entities to set up districts with special requirements, in this case impact fees and extra tax millage.

Wooten is suggesting a $500 impact fee per home that will be paid by builders when they get their building permits. He says the builders he’s spoken with are okay with the charge. The fee is expected to bring in just under $1 million during the development phase, which could be as much as 20 years.

The other suggested provision of this MID is an additional four mills of taxes paid each year by the homeowners forever.

This could bring in an additional $16 a year on a $100,000 residence and $32 on a $200,000 residence. This is considering a 4 percent primary residence assessment and Conway’s new 76 millage rate. Wooten doesn’t think buyers will be bothered at all by this additional charge because most of them will be used to paying much higher taxes in the places they will come from.

Based on these additional charges, Wooten said, “We feel like development of this project should pay for itself.”

One worry the city won’t have with this project is providing water and sewer because the development area is served by the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority.

As to recent complaints about the location of the park, Wooten says they put it where they did based on recommendations from city planners, but they’ll be glad to move it if necessary.

He commented on the worries of a former out-of-state policeman who said he knows what goes on in parks, especially at night, and it isn’t good, but Wooten says he’s familiar with this area’s parks, and unwholesome activity is not going on in them.

Wooten says he expects building to start on the west side of Collins Jollie Road, across the road from Ridgewood West and continue down the road headed north. When that’s built out, they’ll come back to the Ridgewood side of the street and head on down the road in the same direction.

The engineer also said some people objected to a previous comment of his that the property will be developed whether the rezoning is approved or not.

“My client didn’t buy this land to sit on it,” he said this week.

Wooten now plans to meet individually with each member of council.

“I think this could greatly change the dynamics of the Maple community,” Councilman Tom Anderson said after Monday’s meeting. “I have concerns and want to move forward very cautiously.”

Because this is such a big issue to review, city staff plans for the Planning Commission to deal with it over two meetings. Its members will take it up again Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. The commission will then make a recommendation about the project to Conway City Council, whose members plan to hold two public hearings on it.

Those will be Oct. 7 and 21 at 5:30 p.m. during the regularly-scheduled council meetings.  

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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