Golfers may be the only winners in a rift between some of the Grande Dunes property owners and the company that owns the golf club.
But, Myrtle Beach City Councilman Mike Chestnut said it was shame the disagreement took a backspin and landed in front of the council.
“It would be nice if grown folks could sit down and really work out their differences,” Chestnut said Tuesday as the council voted to deny a road that would allow limited access from the Members Club golf course inside the gated Grande Dunes community and a planned housing development on the former Waterway Hills Golf Club.
Now that the road isn’t an option, Margaret Lacalle said, the 415-member private club will become semi-private, opening it to 7,000-15,000 more rounds of golf. She said the additional rounds of golf should offset the $1 million annual loss the club is facing.
Lacalle, division president at LStar Ventures, said she expects the change to occur within 45 days.
LStar purchased the Members Club in 2013 and Waterway Hills in 2015. The golf course at Waterway Hills was closed shortly after it was purchased.
Members Club is operated by McConnell Golf of Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Ultimately what was voted results in the very thing the opposition didn’t want and that was the increase in traffic,” she said.
LStar had asked the city to allow it to add access between the two communities west of the Intracoastal Waterway: Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach and Waterway Hills in North Myrtle Beach. LStar had proposed paving Henry Road, installing a gate and connecting the road leading to the golf course with the 800-plus houses planned for the Waterway Hills area.
“There’s a lot of people that want to golf in the Members Club but don’t want to be a resident of Grande Dunes,” she said. “Now everybody can be a member of the club, a member for the day.”
Since Grande Dunes is in a planned unit development, assistant city manager Fox Simons said, council’s approval is needed on any major changes in access to the area.
The Grande Dunes development spans from the ocean, south to 62nd Avenue North on the bypass, north toward 82nd Parkway and to communities west of the Intracoastal Waterway. It includes numerous neighborhoods and amenities.
The neighborhoods over the waterway where the Members Club is located can only be accessed by one bridge over the waterway. Grande Dunes homeowners own the bridge.
The city’s planning commission had denied LStar’s request for the road, but city manager John Pedersen asked the city council to allow the road.
“The proposal made by LStar is the least bad choice of the two choices available,” Pedersen wrote to the council, as he was unable to attend the meeting.
The two choices were to allow the limited access or open the course to the public.
Lacalle said the road opening would have been limited to club members living in the planned community just to its north and the road would not have include access throughout the Grande Dunes neighborhoods.
She added that if the road had been approved, it would have decreased the amount of traffic over the waterway bridge and added an exit for the residents increasing public safety in the event of an emergency evacuation.
But the opposition saw things differently as the city council chambers was filled with people on both sides of the issue.
Roger Markowitz said opening the road would only benefit LStar and residents of Waterway Hills while hurting Grande Dunes’ Golf Village residents.
Presenting council with a petition of more than 300 signatures, Markowitz said opening the road would increase the value of the Waterway Hills homes sold with a promise of access to a private club. He added it would increase traffic through Golf Village thereby decreasing the value of the village homes.
He said he worried the limited access would become an opening for traffic from Waterway Hills to use the Grande Dunes neighborhoods as a shortcut to Myrtle Beach rather than their traffic flowing south on U.S. 17.
An equal number of pro-connectivity speakers argued the road would not cut through the neighborhood and it would be a benefit to public safety.
Lacalle said the management company may consider allowing only one fire truck engine on the bridge at a time. Saying the bridge is structurally sound, she described it shaking recently as several fire engines passed over the bridge while responding to a call in the neighborhood.
City council members voted 4-3 to deny the road.
The four council members voting to deny the road were Mary Jeffcoat, Chestnut, Mike Lowder and Phil Render.
Councilman Gregg Smith voted for the road and said the two weeks between the first and second reading may give the two sides another chance to resolve their disagreements while Mayor Brenda Bethune and council member Jackie Vereen Hatley said they voted for the road in the interest of public safety.
Bethune had lived in the Grande Dunes area over the waterway for 13 years.
Lacalle added now that the club is moving to a semi-private status and should be breaking even in about 18 months, it would become more valuable if LStar decided to put it on the market and sell it. Stopping of short of saying the club is being listed for sale, she said LStar is a development company and they do buy and sell property.