I think I’m like most people who decided to live on the Waccamaw Neck. We chose to live here because of the natural beauty, easy access to the ocean and rivers, and importantly the quality of life. Murrells Inlet, Litchfield and Pawleys Island are a far cry from the intense residential development, high-rises, and garishness of the Myrtle Beach area.
So, as Georgetown County Council plans for the future, one would think that maintaining the quality of life we cherish on the Waccamaw Neck would be a priority.
Last month the development density standards for the draft land use plan update were presented to the county planning commission. These standards control how many residential units per acre can be built in low, medium and high-density zoned areas and are the key to the intensity of allowable development and our quality of life.
I’m shocked by these proposed density standards because they represent a huge, almost unlimited, increase in density and will bring Myrtle Beach style development to the Waccamaw Neck if adopted.
Not only does the number of allowable units for medium and high-density development increase by 20 to 25 percent, a new “Very High Density” category has been added that would allow more than 20 units per acre, with no limit on just how high developers could go.
Our roads and other infrastructure are already stretched way beyond design limits and won’t support intense Myrtle Beach style development. According to a traffic congestion report by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, service for U.S. Highway 17 through the Waccamaw Neck in 2035 will be at a “D” to “F” level and that’s without the impacts of this proposed very high development density.
There is also the looming threat of the redevelopment of area golf courses that would be made even worse by increased residential development density. Twenty courses have closed in the Myrtle Beach area, with several up for redevelopment. The average golf course is 150 acres, so the proposed 20 units per acre results in an incredible 3,000 homes.
And it’s not just golf courses. We’ve seen how the tennis court amenities at the Litchfield Country Club are up for redevelopment as a housing complex. These proposed density standards will just make situations like this even worse.
There are thousands of residential units on the Waccamaw Neck that have already been approved for development, but are in dormant projects. One project, Arcadia East, has 2,500 approved residential units that will eventually be built. All these residences, when built, will add about six car trips a day each on Highway 17. Add extremely high residential density and you’ve created a quality of life disaster.
For the life of me, I don’t understand how county council let these proposed standards see the light of day. It seems to me that council is asleep at the wheel on this and has defaulted to letting county staff set very developer friendly standards.
Citizens on the Waccamaw Neck demonstrably and vigorously oppose more intense residential development. We’ve heard that time and time again. In fact, I think citizens support a lowering of the current density standards.
County council needs to scrap this proposal as soon as possible. It needs to seek citizen input on residential density standards and other land use issues before any standards, regulations or zoning maps are put to paper.
We don’t want to become another Myrtle Beach.