Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Recent Storm Events Raise Concerns Among Citizens About Proposed Development in Tilly Swamp

November 12, 2018 7:41 AM
Recent Storm Events Raise Concerns Among Citizens About Proposed Development in Tilly Swamp

The flooding from Hurricane Florence has Horry County residents questioning the thought process behind continued rezoning development approvals by Horry County Council without consideration of the overall impact they will have on quality of life.

The latest ‘hot button’ issue is a proposed rezoning in the Tilly Swamp area that would allow approximately 1,500 new homes to be built on what are collectively known as the Bear properties, an area that is already strained for resources.

A new 900 unit RV park and an approximately 110 unit new housing development are already in the process of being developed in the area.

Access to the proposed development will be on small two-lane roads, Old Reaves Ferry Road and Old Hwy 90, off of the current Hwy 90.  Current police, fire and EMS services appear to be insufficient for the introduction of over 1,600 new homes and 900 RV units in the area.

Stormwater is another issue. Hurricane Florence saw homes in the area suffer flooding for the first time in history while roads in the area have been closed due to flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the recent Hurricane Florence.

One lifetime local resident said the Bear properties are sandy and act like a sponge to draw water in during heavy rain events. He said there is no telling what new flooding may occur in the area if it is paved over with impervious surfaces.

The area is designated ‘Scenic and Conservation’ in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040. Counties are required by state law to update comprehensive plans every 10 years. Those plans are adopted by county council with a three reading ordinance.

Comprehensive plans are meant to be a planning tool for county goods and services needed, not something adopted to satisfy the state and be ignored until the next one is due.

Both the Horry County Planning staff and Horry County Planning Commission have recommended disapproving the proposed rezoning of the Bear properties. However, it is up for second reading and public review at the regular meeting of council tomorrow night.

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Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

November 7, 2018 10:35 AM
Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

Horry County voters resoundingly supported the concept of having new construction pay for the improvements in county goods and services it requires on a referendum question Tuesday night.

Asked whether they supported imposing impact fees on new development, 74,904 voters out of the 103,186 answering the question, said YES.

The question was asked as an advisory referendum, which means it is non-binding and only an expression of voter will. However, when such an overwhelming majority of voters supports an issue, elected officials would do well to hear the message being sent.

State law currently includes language for imposing impact fees, but the legislation is so restrictive as to make it generally useless to a local government.

In the past, Horry County’s legislative delegation has been responsible for much of that language and has generally listened to the wishes of the real estate and development lobby at the expense of average citizens.

Many of these legislators have been given a ‘free pass’ in elections with little or no opposition to their holding office. It is time for that to change.

Results from Horry County Council contests in this election cycle provide an interesting view of what may be to come when solid challengers take on incumbents.

There were two contested Republican primaries with challenger Johnny Gardner defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus by 111 votes for the council chairman nomination. Gardner was unopposed in last night’s general election and will take office in January 2019.

Incumbent Bill Howard squeaked by challenger Dean Pappas by 33 votes in the other contested primary to barely hold onto his Council District Two seat.

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Tilly Swamp Rezoning Moves Back to Council with Disapproval Recommendation

November 5, 2018 4:34 AM
Tilly Swamp Rezoning Moves Back to Council with Disapproval Recommendation

The Horry County Planning Commission voted 4-3 last week to recommend disapproval of a proposal to rezone nearly 900 acres in the Tilly Swamp for residential development.

The Planning Commission joined the county’s planning staff in recommending disapproval of the rezoning.

A portion of the acreage is already zoned SF 10. The request is to rezone that portion and the portion currently zoned commercial forest agriculture to SF 7, a change that would allow a higher density of homes to be built on the properties allowing developers to make more money.

Residents showed up in force to express disapproval for the proposed rezoning. They expressed concerns about lack of infrastructure, police and fire services the area already experiences. An expansion of nearly 1,500 new homes would only exacerbate those problems.

The citizens’ comments were a factor in the disapproval. Another factor is the rezoning request runs counter to the county’s current comprehensive plan and the updated comprehensive plan in the process of being approved. Both plans list the area being considered for rezoning as ‘scenic and conservation.’

A county comprehensive plan is a requirement of state law. It must be updated every 10 years. The county is currently completing that update.

The comprehensive plan goes through a process of consultation with the planning staff, research into current conditions and public input, all of which is used to develop needs, goals and implementation strategies. The plan is then presented to the Planning Commission with another 30-day window for public input before it is completed.

It is sent to county council with a resolution for approval adopted by the Planning Commission. At the council level it is adopted by a three reading county ordinance making it county law.

The portion of the area in question already zoned for residential was rezoned prior to enactment of the current comprehensive plan.

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Proposed Tilly Swamp Rezoning Raises Questions

October 30, 2018 3:03 PM
Proposed Tilly Swamp Rezoning Raises Questions

A rezoning request in the Tilly Swamp community is raising questions about how Horry County officials approve development.

The rezoning request received first reading approval from Horry County Council at its last regular meeting before being sent to the Planning Commission and Infrastructure and Regulation Committee.

The request is from Bear Claw Associates, Bear Paw Associates and Bear Bone to allow for more houses to be built on two currently undeveloped lots owned by the named LLC’s. The request is to reduce lot size from SF 10 to SF 7 on previously rezoned land and to change zoning from Commercial Forest Agriculture (CFA) to SF 7 on land not included in the previous rezoning.

If the request is approved, approximately 1,500 new homes will be built in what is considered an environmentally sensitive area of Horry County, with the larger of the two lots adjacent on three sides to the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.

The lots in question are in an area designated as scenic and conservation in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040.

According to S.C. Secretary of State records, the registered agent for the LLC’s is Keith Hinson owner of Waccamaw Land and Timber with the 4705 Oleander Drive, Myrtle Beach, SC address of Waccamaw Land and Timber as the registered address of the LLC’s. Hinson is a longtime friend, associate and business partner of outgoing Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

According to longtime residents of the area near the requested rezoning, access to the proposed rezoning was cut off during the flooding from the recent Hurricane Florence. Additionally, the 2009 wildfire in the area burned 2,000 acres of the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve and threatened the land being considered for rezoning.

Fire and EMS services are listed as 3.99 miles away on the county Planning staff rezoning review sheet, but that appears to be inaccurate. The old Nixonville firehouse on Hwy 90 has always been a volunteer staffed unit with few, if any, volunteers left. Information provided to GSD said the building is currently used only for storage.

The closest fire stations for response to the proposed rezoning area now appear to be either Lees Landing or Wampee, both of which are approximately seven or more miles distant.

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Solid Waste Management Plan Approval Delayed

October 17, 2018 6:32 AM
Solid Waste Management Plan Approval Delayed

Horry County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to defer consideration of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s (SWA) revised Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) until at least the November 28 council fall budget workshop.

The new SWMP includes plans for a further expansion of landfill capacity at the authority’s Hwy 90 landfill, apparently in contradiction of directions contained in the county Ordinance 60-90, which established the SWA in December 1990.

Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

In the nearly 30 years since its creation, the SWA has consistently failed to seek alternatives for solid waste disposal and reduce the tonnage disposed in landfills in Horry County.

According to records from the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are nine counties in South Carolina with public landfills. Horry County disposes approximately 98% of the municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the county into its Hwy 90 landfill. The remaining eight SC counties who own and operate landfills dispose an average of approximately 35% of the MSW generated in their respective counties into their publicly owned landfill with the remaining amount sent to private landfills for disposal.

What is cost effective and good enough for those other eight counties is, for some undefined reason, not good enough for Horry County. Why? The SWA board and staff should explain the reason in detail to county council.

Amelia Wood, a former liaison to the SWA board from a Hwy 90 citizens group, expressed several concerns with the revised plan. Wood said there was no sustainable funding source, other than tipping fees, to pay for waste diversion programs of the SWA. She pointed out the more diversion programs are successful, less money will be available to fund them because tipping fee revenue will be reduced.

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County Council Approves Buck Creek Development

October 3, 2018 8:19 AM
County Council Approves Buck Creek Development

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, Horry County Council passed third reading of a rezoning and development agreement that will allow nearly 1,300 homes to be built in the Buck Creek community.

The vote was 7-4 to approve the rezoning despite pleas from residents in nearby Arbor Glen to turn the development down.

The majority of council members who voted to approve the development rezoning got the cover they needed from county staff to attempt to justify their Yes vote.

The development meets county standards for stormwater management, which are based on 25 year flood projections for normal rainstorms, according to statements by staff. The standard of the 25 year flood is quite low, but meets state requirements.

There was much discussion that Hurricane Florence was a historic event, which is true. However, when taken into consideration with the flooding brought on in the state and local area by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, we can say the flooding from Hurricane Florence was historic but should not have been a huge surprise.

These flooding events are becoming more common, but county officials are apparently satisfied that planning stormwater management for the 25 year flood is sufficient and anything beyond that can be attributed as God’s Will.

It was pointed out that the land for the specific development approved Tuesday did not flood from the effects of Hurricane Florence and one access road to the property remained open after the storm. However, no one really knows what will happen to the area and its access roads, or other areas and their access roads in the development pipeline, during similar storm events as those mentioned above when nature is replaced by the concrete and macadam associated with new sub-divisions.

Council member Paul Prince, in whose Council District 9 the new development will be built, proudly said he toured his district after the storm and the Longs community and the rest of the district fared well compared to other areas of the county.

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Hurricane Gone, Floods Receding, Back to Development as Usual

October 1, 2018 4:34 AM
Hurricane Gone, Floods Receding, Back to Development as Usual

Horry County Council will consider third reading of a rezoning Tuesday night that would allow development of an anticipated 1,292 residential units plus some commercial space in the area of Old Buck Creek Rd. and Hwy 905 in rural Horry County.

The picture accompanying this story shows Buck Creek flooding Hwy 905 just south of this proposed development. A short distance downstream from the proposed development is the Aberdeen development that suffered considerable flooding that flowed over SC 9 closing that road for over one week. Several miles down Hwy 905 is the Polo Farms development that seriously flooded from the storm and suffers flooding during hard rainstorms.

The question must be asked, is this the time to approve a development of nearly 1300 homes to an area that is prone to flooding. Even if the property itself doesn’t flood after it is developed, do we really want 1300 new homeowners essentially cut off from the rest of the county when the next flood occurs.

And it’s not a question of if another flood of this type of magnitude will occur, but when. I can quickly think of three times in the last 19 years that SC 9 and Hwy 905 by Buck Creek have been cut off by floodwaters.

The county only developed a stormwater management plan after suffering the effects of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It can be argued that county officials have been trying to catch up with controlling flooding and the effects of new development on various areas of the county ever since. Aberdeen, Polo Farms, Forestbrook and areas in Bucksport come quickly to mind.

Another consideration is the paucity of first responders in the area. The nearest fire station to this proposed development is an all-volunteer station with no career, full-time personnel attached. This area is part of the North Police Precinct, which is understaffed with a large area to patrol for those few officers available on each shift.

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Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

August 4, 2018 8:00 AM
Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s latest plan to extend operations at the Hwy 90 landfill until approximately 2050 appears to have sprung out of nowhere in recent months for no apparent reason.

At a recent board meeting, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told board members the latest expansion plan was moving forward because it was the authority’s responsibility to maximize the use of available land at the Hwy 90 site for waste disposal.

Actually, that statement runs counter to the ordinance that established the SWA in December 1990. Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

Through the years since the authority’s opening in 1992, that section of the ordinance has been forgotten or ignored by a succession of SWA staff and board members.

The timeline set by the SWA for what is being called “Piggyback Expansion Phase III” hopes for a permit for the expansion to be issued by SCDHEC in June 2019 even though Piggyback Phase II is only now under construction and Phase III will not be needed until 2040 at projected disposal rates.

Why the rush? Shouldn’t the SWA staff and board members be seeking alternative means of disposal of the county’s solid waste?

The answer to the first question is not available to the public and not known by county council members, only a few of whom have recently become aware of these expansion plans.

The answer to the second question is “Yes” only if the SWA board and staff believe it is their responsibility to obey the law that established the authority in the first place. To date that has not been the case.

And what of the cost? It was only 18 months ago that the SWA projected a $33 million shortfall in needed funds by 2024 unless it received a nearly 50% increase in tipping fees. County council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase with additional $1 per year increases as the SWA needs them.

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County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

July 27, 2018 4:10 AM
County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.

Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.

The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.

A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.

County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.

When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.

This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.

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Horry County’s Political Schism

July 22, 2018 9:22 AM
Horry County’s Political Schism

One glance at the agenda for Tuesday’s upcoming special meeting and workshop of Horry County Council demonstrates the political schism that exists in local politics.

Council will consider two resolutions that propose advisory referendums on the upcoming November 2018 general election ballot to raise countywide property taxes by 10 mils to fund police, EMS, Sheriff and E911service improvements throughout the county and one to raise property taxes by an additional 9.5 mils in the unincorporated areas of the county to fund fire improvements.

The entire discussion of these two referendums is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to the defeat of incumbent council chairman Mark Lazarus by Johnny Gardner in the June 2018 Republican Primary for the nomination for council chairman.

One of the reasons Gardner won the nomination was his motto of “First Responders First” and his promise to take care of the additional needs of public safety departments in upcoming county budgets. It must be noted, Gardner never proposed tax increases to fund additional personnel and pay raises for first responders. Rather, he proposed prioritizing the needs of public safety during the budget process with current revenues and funds.

Over the last five years, Lazarus and council have basically ignored the increasing needs of public safety. After the voters made themselves heard by voting Lazarus out in June, it is all of a sudden a council priority necessitating a special meeting.

Being advisory rather than binding referendums, the results will mean nothing. The resolutions were first proposed by council member Tyler Servant at the June 19, 2018 regular meeting of council.

Servant said he was a strong fiscal conservative Republican who opposed tax increases, but proposed allowing the voters to make the decision. A true, fiscal conservative would first look to current revenues and funds to meet these needs and consider tax increases only after every other option has been considered and discarded.

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