Post Tagged with: "Coastal Conservation League"

The County Debate over Unrestricted Rezoning

September 30, 2019 5:24 AM
The County Debate over Unrestricted Rezoning

An interesting dynamic has recently emerged in the debate over unrestricted rezoning and development within the unincorporated areas of Horry County.

The development industry is moving fast forward with an agenda designed to characterize anyone opposed to its desires to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, whenever it wants, with respect to rezoning and development in the county, as disrupting the local economy and costing jobs.

Recent presentations during public input at county council meetings by business owners in the development industry are one indication of this.

Another is a recent article posted in a local blog (no, not this one). A prominent display of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) symbols included with the article attempted to set the tone of a faulty argument.

The article attempts to paint groups opposing any rezoning in the county as Democrats and/or environmentalists “stoking people’s fears to threaten office holders with eviction at the next election in order to finally advance environmentalism’s long-held goals of locking up private property from any future use at all.”

Prominently mentioned as such groups were the Coastal Conservation League, Horry County Rising, Highway 90 Corridor Concerns and Rosewood Strong. There are those in the development industry with personal grudges against some of these groups. That is not a good reason to mischaracterize their goals.

The writer, Audrey Hudson, may draw any conclusions she wishes, however flawed. But, even a cursory look at the mix of citizens in the groups opposing unrestricted rezonings in the county will quickly observe a large percentage in the mix are Republicans who voted for Donald Trump.

This issue isn’t about Democrats and environmentalists opposing “the GOP’s commitment to preserving the free market and protecting private property rights” as the writer suggests. It is merely about people wanting county elected officials to take steps to properly exercise the core functions of any government in order to minimize flooding and plan for infrastructure and public safety needs at least in concert with new rezoning approvals.

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Work on International Drive Can Continue

January 21, 2017 5:52 AM
Work on International Drive Can Continue

A state appeals court yesterday lifted an order issued last month stopping construction work on International Drive.

This reversal means the county can continue work stopped last month after the appeals court issued an initial injunction halting construction. According to the Friday order, work on the road may continue with the exception of connecting it to adjacent properties until a final decision in the appeals court is reached.

This latest ruling continues a pattern that has evolved in the International Drive saga in both federal and state courts as well as other administrative rulings. The county wins a decision to go forward, the environmentalists find a new roadblock to stop progress until the next court ruling sides with the county’s arguments.

The environmental groups’ attorney Amy Armstrong was quoted in media outlets saying a reconsideration of this latest order would be sought.

The environmentalist strategy of delay, delay, delay has been successful in stopping or seriously altering projects many times through the years.

Just to see how it works, below is a capsule synopsis of the delaying tactics used against the International Drive project:

Seventeen years ago, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board discussed using authority funds to pave International Drive as a means of reducing garbage truck traffic on SC 90.

The environmentalists were never heard from during these discussions.

When the project began being talked about seriously at the county level (in the early to mid-2000’s), SCDNR chief counsel Buford Mabry showed up at a county council meeting to talk about the project affecting a pair of red cockaded woodpeckers that were allegedly nesting near the proposed road bed.

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International Drive Battle Continues – Update

September 13, 2016 7:09 AM
International Drive Battle Continues – Update

Update

The most important decision in the Administrative Law Court hearing yesterday was no decision.

Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson declined issuing a restraining order from the bench to stop construction on International Drive. Anderson said he needs more time to study the legal points argued and will issue a ruling later.

Meanwhile work to construct a road bed continues on International Drive.

Since work on the roadway began after Anderson ordered a state permit to be issued in August the issue of stopping that work became more complex because a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was also issued.

Anderson said he doesn’t know if he, as a state judge, has the authority to issue a stay on a federal permit.

It’s a pretty sure bet he doesn’t and work will continue on the road bed for at least 30 more days as an appeal of Anderson’s August decision winds its way to the S.C. Court of Appeals.

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Not ready to give up their obstruction attempts, the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation are taking the battle to federal court with a new lawsuit filed against Horry County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Environmentalists Spin International Drive Issues

August 30, 2016 5:54 AM
Environmentalists Spin International Drive Issues

It appears that a last ditch effort by the environmentalists to confuse the facts about paving International Drive is in motion.

Several recent reports in local, state and social media show the Coastal Conservation League and its allies are in spin mode about what is really happening.

After Horry County announced it was starting work on the International Drive road bed so it would be ready to handle emergency vehicles in 40-60 days, a post on the South Carolina Environmental Law Project Facebook page stated, “Yesterday we filed a notice of appeal and a motion for stay in our Bays & Bears case after we learned that Horry County began clearing for the construction of International Drive on Monday.”

Continuing legal action by the environmentalists is no surprise. This case has gone beyond the issues involved to a mano a mano showdown between the environmentalists and county officials.

However, it appears that the only avenue left for legal action by SCELP and the groups it represents is challenging the permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in federal court.

For the time being, Horry County has the necessary permits in hand and is using county employees for the work on the road bed.

The spin on the issue, however, started with the second sentence in the post, which read, “Still excited by the bulldozer photo-op, County Officials “told it like it is” about the whole project: hundreds, even thousands of new homes to be built along the road. So much for the public safety and emergency access invocations during the March trial.”

The post was apparently referring to a comment Horry County Council member Paul Prince was quoted as making to The State newspaper.

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International Drive Construction Begins

August 22, 2016 1:23 PM
International Drive Construction Begins

(Pictured above Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught (left) and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.)

After a series of legal delays orchestrated by the Coastal Conservation League and its allies, Horry County is moving forward on constructing the road bed on International Drive.

According to sources familiar with the court proceedings, a SC District Court judge ordered the permits issued after Horry County won the latest round in court.

Now, with the SCDHEC water quality and US Army Corps of Engineers wetland fill permits in hand, county officials hope to have the road bed ready for emergency vehicles within 60 days.

Further court challenges from CCL could be forthcoming. But, for the present, work on International Drive is moving forward.

The entire project will not be completed for approximately 12 months. Requests for Proposals from contractors desiring to bid on the project are expected to be advertised in October.

Meanwhile Horry County employees from the county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division are completing preliminary work such as right of way clearing and getting the road bed up to standards that can handle emergency vehicles. This is expected to be accomplished over the next 60 days.

The picture accompanying this post shows Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus standing in front of a bulldozer with a picture of Vaught’s late uncle, Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught, on the blade.

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Public Need and Safety Means Nothing to Coastal Conservation League

July 18, 2016 7:05 AM
Public Need and Safety Means Nothing to Coastal Conservation League

The Coastal Conservation League (CCL) continues its objection and delaying tactics regarding the International Drive Paving Project in Horry County, a project direly needed by the residents along the Highway 90 corridor portion of the County.

Early this year, the League, through its legal arm, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), brought a request for contested case hearing before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. On July 7, Judge Ralph King Anderson rendered his decision in the case. He ruled that CCL failed the burden of proof in every one of at least nine (9) arguments they put before him.

Of greatest importance to the residents, was Judge Anderson’s ruling that: “The proposed road will significantly improve the health and safety of a substantial part of the County’s population by:

allowing quicker access by emergency responders;
• allowing quicker access for them to trauma centers, emergency rooms, and other critical health services; and
• improving firefighting capabilities and hurricane evacuation.”
Yet, despite the Court’s overwhelming repudiation of CCL’s arguments and expression of the public need for this roadway, listen to the response from CCL and their legal team:

Amy Armstrong, SCELP attorney for CCL, in a WPDE interview, “we want him (Judge Anderson) to reconsider.” And if he doesn’t, Armstrong says they’ll appeal again.

Nancy Cave, North Coast Director for CCL, in a televised interview, quote “we expected this decision” This statement begs the question, if you expected to lose in a court of law, why did you bring the case in the first place? Is this what your contributors expect – spending tens of thousands of dollars on a case you have no expectation of winning? If you didn’t expect to win, what is the real motive behind these actions?

Dana Beach, Executive Director of CCL in the Sun News, July 15: “The Judge failed to rule on two key points: the extent to which construction will protect or improve water quality, and whether the project complies with policies on fill material”. Mr. Beach is obviously oblivious to Judge Andersons ruling. “Water quality” is referenced fifty two (52) times in the written decision.

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International Drive Court Date Set

November 20, 2015 7:55 AM
International Drive Court Date Set

The International Drive project will have its day in court beginning February 16, 2016.

The scheduling order came down a few days ago from the Administrative Law Court. Three days have been set to hear the case.

The Administrative Law Court was established by a 1993 state law to allow citizens affected by the decisions of certain state agencies to challenge those actions. Previously, challenges were heard by hearing officers of the respective state agencies.

The lawsuit to be heard by the ALC was filed by the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation. It challenges a decision by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control to issue a water quality permit for construction and paving of International Drive to Hwy 90.

Think about this process for a minute.

The ALC was set up to allow citizens affected by decisions of state agencies to challenge those decisions.

The voters of Horry County passed the Ride II referendum, which listed International Drive as one of the projects on its list, in November 2006.

The citizens most affected by the International Drive project, those of Horry County, especially in the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 residential areas, approved the construction project by referendum vote.

The Coastal Conservation League, which bills itself as working to protect the natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, clean water and quality of life in South Carolina, is not directly affected by the decision to go forward with International Drive.

In fact, I would submit the continued delaying tactics used by the CCL and its allies on the International Drive project works to reduce the quality of life of the citizens of Carolina Forest and Hwy 90.

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International Drive Stalemate

October 15, 2015 7:01 AM
International Drive Stalemate

A recent meeting between residents in the SC 90 area and representatives of the Coastal Conservation League highlighted the International Drive stalemate.

According to sources familiar with the meeting, homeowners in the area want the road built and the environmentalists won’t give in unless they get their way.

Their way is to add millions of dollars to the cost of the project for bear tunnels, electronic warning signals, higher fencing and additional mitigation not needed for the project at the cost of a $1.6 million payment to The Nature Conservancy.

In other words, the environmentalist tactic is to delay the project for as long as possible and to add as much additional cost as possible in the hope the road project will be abandoned.

And I don’t believe these delaying tactics are about bears in the area at all.

Fifteen years ago, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board discussed using authority funds to pave International Drive as a means of reducing garbage truck traffic on SC 90.

The environmentalists were never heard from during these discussions.

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International Drive Delays

September 11, 2015 5:03 AM
International Drive Delays

The International Drive project is now awaiting its day in court.

According to sources familiar with the Administrative Law Court, the contested hearing before Administrative Law Judge Trip Anderson will be held sometime within the next 2-6 months.

Horry County has asked for an early hearing, but, if history on this project tells us anything, the Coastal Conservation League and its conservationist allies will delay as long as possible.

Since the SCDHEC Appeals Committee voted against a final review conference for the International Drive project, Horry County and the conservationists have had two face to face meetings and have exchanged several offers and counteroffers all to no avail.

A protest march before the Coastal Conservation League north coast office in Georgetown last month demonstrated the conservationists do not have public opinion on their side in this contest.

CCL and the SC Wildlife Federation requested a meeting with representatives of the groups that organized the protest, but that will not happen, according to sources familiar with the request.

That is probably a good thing because the typical tactic of the CCL and its allies is ‘divide and conquer.’

They haven’t counted on the determination of the homeowners in the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 areas that will be helped by the construction of International Drive nor their unity in supporting the project.

In the filing to the ALC, the CCL and SCWF questioned whether there was a valid need for the road. They attempted to make a case that widening and other improvements to U.S. 501 are reasonable alternatives to the International Drive project. Those of us who live here know that is a ridiculous assertion.

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International Drive Compromise Rejected

August 28, 2015 6:00 PM
International Drive Compromise Rejected

The Coastal Conservation League has rejected the latest effort at compromise over International Drive offered by Horry County.

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Horry County offered a compromise that did not include bear tunnels.

Those sources say the CCL is insisting on one bear tunnel be included in the project.

According to Horry County officials, including a bear tunnel at this late date would require a total re-engineering of the project costing more than $1 million additional and would delay the start of construction for up to as much as two years.

No official agency, such as SCDOT, SCDNR, SCDHEC and the US Army Corps of Engineers, sees a need for even one bear tunnel in the project because the bear population in the area has seriously dwindled since the 2009 fire that swept through part of the Lewis Ocean Bay Preserve.

Additionally, an effort to harvest some of the remaining bear population allows for hunting of bears with a special permit during a portion of the year.

No word has been received on whether the CCL has requested a contested hearing over the International Drive project in the Administrative Law Court, but that move is expected by Horry County officials.

It is now questionable whether the CCL was ever negotiating in good faith with Horry County or whether this was just another delaying tactic since a SCDHEC committee rejected the request by the CCL for a final review of the International Drive project.

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