Wednesday, May 7, 2014
County Councilman Bob Anderson says opponents of a Pawleys Island median project along U.S. Highway 17, including Steve Goggans, are not focused on reality.
Goggans is challenging Anderson for his Council seat in the upcoming Republican primary election.
However, the Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway, Inc. recently released documents that they say prove Georgetown County Council can change or stop the project.
Anderson and others on County Council say it is federal highway and the median project is a SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) project.
David Gundling, chair of the Citizens Coalition group, sent local media two letters which he said “document the fact that Georgetown County Council, and only Georgetown County Council has the authority to change or alter the proposed median plan for Highway 17 in Pawleys Island.”
One is a signed letter from State Sen. Ray Cleary stating that “only Georgetown County Council can make any changes or stop the median project” and that “SCDOT is doing this project under the county's directions.”
The other is a letter from James Wooten with SCDOT stating that Georgetown County could “ask for the opportunity to review the project.”
County Councilman Jerry Oakley, who is also the county representative on the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study (GSATS), points out that this letter is not dated and now that the project has been in planning stages for more than a year, County Council can only make recommendations. Those recommendations may or may not be taken into consideration by SCDOT for the project, he said.
Goggans said the letter does support what he and others have been saying for a while, that the project can be changed or stopped by County Council.
“SCDOT is like the contractor of the project, Georgetown County is like the director, and GSATS is the funding entity,” Goggans said.
The changes the Citizens Coalition group suggests are reducing the number of U-turns and putting in a series of islands.
“The design is called ‘strategic islands,'” Goggans said.
“It is based on what they are doing in other communities, including areas along Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.”
He added that Anderson refused to attend meetings where he and others presented this plan.
Jerry Oakley said he and other County Council members were very willing to hear about concerns even after the public comment period for the project ended in May of 2012.
“Councilman Anderson, in whose district the project is located, and myself at all times tried to assist the opponents group in getting their concerns before the decision makers at SCDOT,” Oakley said.
He said the plan was chosen by the public during the public input period and there were at least two meetings in 2013 in which Goggans could have presented the plan but didn't.
Jan Devereaux, a business owner in Pawleys Island who is a member of the Citizens Coalition group, said she was at the public input meetings and the plans presented were for beautification.
“We heard very little about the 17 U-turns that are now in the plans,” Devereaux said.
She and others in the group have collected more than 3,000 signatures from people against the median project, including 166 businesses.
In a recent letter to Anderson, Leah Quattlebaum, program manager with SCDOT, stated that there are “no statutes in place that require SCDOT to obtain approval from the County to construct the project.”
“SCDOT has worked closely with (GSATS) and Georgetown County to develop a project that best meets the needs of the traveling public and surrounding area,” Quattlebaum wrote.
“The design is now finalized, and the acquisition of rights of way is near complete. The project will be let to construction in August 2014 with work anticipated to begin in October 2014.”
See letters online at www.southstrandnews.com.