Despite passionate pleas from people opposed to a plan to put a mini-warehouse facility on U.S. Highway 17 near Martin Luther King Road in Pawleys Island, Georgetown County Council approved rezoning the property on Tuesday night.
The vote was 4-3 in favor, with Council Chairman Johnny Morant and Council Members Leona Myers-Miller and Lillie Jean Johnson voting no.
Willa Coachman Johnson drove seven-and-a-half hours from Richmond, Va., to urge Council not to approve the rezoning.
Johnson said her parents left lots to their children so they could return home to Pawleys Island one day. She remembered years ago when the county wanted to widen Highway 17 and they took the land they needed and gave her parents “a few dollars.”
Terry Najim of Pawleys Island called the plan a “cancer on the adjoining property owners.”
The property is 360 feet from Martin Luther King Road on the southbound side of Highway 17. It is currently vacant, but Santee Cooper recently used it for storage while doing work in the area.
711 Partners, LLC, wants to build the mini-warehouse facility on the 3.13-acre site. 711 Partners owns Mega Storage on Eden Avenue in Murrells Inlet.
Georgetown County planning director Boyd Johnson told Council in July that future land use maps show the property as commercial, and said the mini-warehouses would be “low impact.”
Myers-Miller said she thought Council was doing what’s best for the county, but not what’s best for the neighbors. She hoped in the future Council members would do the same thing when rezoning requests arose in other neighborhoods.
In other business
• County Council gave final approval to an ordinance that would the allow the Sheriff’s Office to ticket illegally parked cars instead of towing them.
The vote was 6-1, with Myers-Miller voting no.
County officials said in the last few years more people have complained about vehicles being towed and one person sued the county.
The county’s rules would mirror the state’s and authorize deputies to issue tickets to: cars parked that interfere with traffic, pedestrians or emergency vehicles; cars parked on the wrong side of the street facing against traffic; cars parked near posted “No Parking” signs, in handicapped spaces or near a fire hydrant; and cars parked with the engine running.
A parking ticket would carry a fine of $50. That fine would double if the ticket was not paid within 30 days.
• PRA Government Services, LLC, has been hired to track down homeowners who are receiving a tax break under the county’s homestead exemption but don’t qualify for it.
County Administrator Sel Hemingway said PRA estimates about 3 to 5 percent of the approximately 7,500 people in the county who claim the exemption should not receive it.
PRA’s only fee will be 16 percent of whatever the extra tax money the county receives.
Once the company finds a homeowner who should not be getting the exemption, the county will send out a new tax bill immediately.
Myers-Miller voted against the contract.
“I think we should be happy [people] bought a house in Georgetown County and are paying taxes,” she said.
Council Member Bob Anderson voted for it because he wants to make sure “everybody is paying their fair share.”
• County Council gave second reading to updating the ordinance governing “temporary uses” such as carnivals, festivals, circuses and outdoor concerts.
Organizers of any event that will attract 400 people or more will need to get a “Temporary Certificate of Zoning Compliance.” These certificates will only be issued for 14 days at a time, and properties can only get permits twice every calendar year.
Businesses hosting events will still have to provide the required number of parking spaces based on their size. Vendors will not be able to “impede” parking needs.
Event organizers will pay a fee of $50 when getting a permit, and each vendor will pay a $100 fee.
“We’re going to bring in, in my opinion, a lot more money,” Johnson said.
Some of the events not required to get a permit include: weddings, funerals, music recitals and Georgetown County Parks and Recreation activities.
“This is an improvement over what we have,” said Council Member Jerry Oakley. “It’s probably as good as we can do.”
• Council approved designating $145,000 from the unassigned fund balance as a guarantee that the county would repair or replace a groin on the south end of Pawleys Island if it is built.
Hemingway said there are no plans and money to build a groin right now, but the county had to make the financial guarantee before a permit would be issued.
He said the county and the Town of Pawleys Island have been working together on the permit process for three years.
Once a permit is issued, work will begin on securing funding to build the groin, which is needed because erosion threatens the county-owned parking lot and public beach access.
• Council also gave final approval to two other rezoning requests: 9.12 acres in The Village at Murrells Inlet from “Planned Development” to “General Commercial”; and 3.8 acres at 7860 Highmarket Street from “One-Half Acre Residential” to “General Commercial.”