Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Since the Georgetown Times last reported on the issue a few weeks ago, there has been little to no progress with regard to whether or not a controversial median project will move forward in Pawleys Island. But, representatives of the Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway (CCOH) said Thursday night that little progress was not for lack of trying.
They made a 45-minute presentation about the details of a plan for the median revision of U.S. Highway 17 from Waverly Road to Parkersville Road. The Waccamaw Neck grassroots movement has branded itself with the slogan: “Don’t Strip the Neck.”
Sixty or so people showed up for the public presentation held in the Waccamaw High School Auditorium. It was led by local architect Steve Goggans and local attorney David Gundling. They reported details about a County Council-approved plan that began with a Transportation Study in 2003 and evolved to the current project design – a design that is raising the ire of area residents. Active since July 2012, CCOH has collected the names of more than 2,000 petitioners who oppose the plan. They have also garnered the support of roughly 150 area businesses.
The implications of the $2.5 million plan are far-reaching. Opponents assert the existing plan is “seriously flawed,” fraught with safety issues, and will destroy the personality of Pawleys Island. According to the group’s website at dontstriptheneck.org:
n An unattractive 4-to-5 foot wide concrete median will dominate much of the 1.8 mile project.
n The most current revision of the plan is not a highway beautification project and will have little to no landscaping.
n Seventeen u-turns will replace all left turns – requiring vehicles to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic to get to the u-turn lane on the opposite side of the highway. At that point, vehicles must merge back into traffic with no acceleration lanes.
n Access to major connector streets will be limited.
n Emergency vehicles and large trucks will not be able to make most u-turns. Many heavy trucks will be forced to go through residential areas in and around Petigru and Martin Luther King Road.
n Most businesses cannot be accessed from the opposite side of Highway 17.
n This project will lead to more strip development and will have a major economic impact on landowners and businesses.
Based on numerous comments, the group’s leaders and members of the audience agreed on several points. First, there was minimal public input when the plan originally began to take shape. During public meetings held early in 2012, the group says project details – particularly with regard to landscaping – were misrepresented.
There is even confusion about exactly which organization is responsible for the project. The South Carolina Department of Transportation says plan management falls to Georgetown County Council. Council, on the other hand, says it was converted from a county project to a SCDOT project more than five years ago.
Although invited, representatives from neither County Council nor SCDOT attended Thursday night’s meeting.
More than a dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the most recent Georgetown County Council meeting on June 11. Seven stood to speak publicly and urge Council to stop or delay the median project. No resolution was reached.
“Not doing anything is not an option … this plan represents the antithesis of smart growth,” said Steve Goggans. When asked if anyone in the auditorium supported the plan, no one came forward.
Glenn Cox, local businessman and former Georgetown County Council member, took to the microphone to say he holds out hope the current plan can be stopped in time to make changes – but emphasized it would happen only with considerable citizen involvement.
The plan for the Highway 17 median work can be viewed at www.gsats.org. Locals are invited to learn more at dontstriptheneck.org and urged to contact their councilmen.
It is likely this issue will be addressed at the next regular Georgetown County Council Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 9. For more information regarding Council, click here.
By Kimberly Duncan
For The Times
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