Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Pawleys Plaza may soon be home to a 119,500-square-foot Walmart.
Sunbelt Ventures in Mount Pleasant bought the 12.45-acre property, which was going into foreclosure, from Mickey and Beverly Stikas.
Sunbelt is also purchasing 5.32 acres adjoining the site.
The new Walmart will be smaller than the area’s two other stores. The Walmart in Georgetown is 193,000 square feet, and the one in Murrells Inlet is 148,000 square feet.
The developer expects the store will employ between 225 and 300 people, depending on if it’s open 24 hours or not, and have about $45 million in annual sales.
The $20 million development plan calls for everything in Pawleys Plaza to be demolished except for the Bank of America building. The Walmart will be built in the back of the combined 17.77-acre site. Because it will be farther than 500 feet from Highway 17, it does not have to conform to the county’s architectural standards or 45,000-square-foot limit on commercial buildings.
In front of the Walmart will be a parking lot with more than 500 spaces, and 9,800 square feet of retail space. Two more retail spaces totaling nearly 19,000 square feet will be built next to the bank to buffer the plaza from Highway 17.
The three retail spaces in the front of the plaza will have to conform to Highway 17 design standards. Artists’ renderings included with the design plans submitted to the county show Lowcountry-style buildings.
The plans also show two entrances on Highway 17 and two entrances on Petigru Drive. Sunbelt would like the state Department of Transportation to put a traffic light at Highway 17 and Petigru for northbound drivers to make a left turn.
Another entrance is planned from Richardson Lane, a dirt road that runs behind McDonalds and Hardees on Highway 17, so drivers can access to plaza from Waverly Road. Sunbelt will extend Richardson and bring it up to county standards.
Santec is conducting a traffic study that should be ready by the time the proposal goes before the Planning Commission.
A recent state Supreme Court ruling requires Planned Developments to have mixed uses so Sunbelt has included eight small single-family lots at the end of Richardson next to Walmart.
Dusty Wiederhold, a partner in Sunbelt, did not return a phone call seeking comment, and the plans submitted to the county only indicate a “national retail store.”
But Georgetown County planning director Boyd Johnson said Thursday it was a Walmart, as did Stikas.
“My understanding is that [Sunbelt has] developed for Walmart grocery stores in the past,” Stikas said.
William C. Wertz, director of community and media relations for Walmart, wouldn’t confirm the company’s plans.
“We are always looking for new areas where we can bring our low prices and great assortment to customers,” Wertz said. “Nothing announced thus far yet regarding Pawleys Island, however”
Sunbelt will be submitting plans for the design of the main retail store to the Planning Department today.
Johnson said the proposal with go before the county Planning Commission on Sept. 20. There will be a public hearing before the meeting.
The location of the meeting has not been decided but it will likely be in the auditorium at one of the county’s high schools, which can handle a large crowd, because “we expect a lot of opposition,” Johnson said.
The last time a store of this size was proposed in Pawleys Island was in 2005, when Lowe’s wanted to build at Highway 17 and the South Causeway.
Opponents rallied around a “Don’t Box the Neck” battle cry and more than 1,000 people showed up at a public hearing. That plan was not approved by County Council.
Johnson said the difference in the Lowe’s plan was that was a new development. The Walmart plan is a redevelopment of a site that already has businesses on it.
If the Planning Commission recommends the Walmart plan to County Council, first reading by title only would be given on Oct. 9. A discussion and second vote would take place on Oct. 23, with a final vote on Nov. 13.
Johnson said he didn’t think the developer would start any demolition work until final approval is given.
By Chris Sokoloski
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