Post Tagged with: "International Drive"

Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

May 14, 2018 3:23 AM
Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

Infrastructure, especially roads, is on many minds as campaigning moves to the June 12, 2018 primary elections.

Some questionnaires being sent to candidates for various council seats include one or more questions about infrastructure planning.

Four years ago, Mark Lazarus promised voters he would “Fight for greater investment in new and current roads.”

In some of his early campaign statements this time around, Lazarus has pointed to the Ride III initiative and International Drive as personal successes.

This is misleading.

Council has little to do with the Ride projects. A prioritized list is presented from an independent committee to council on which it votes up or down for the entire list. Council may not make any deletions or additions. If council approves the list, and it always does, the citizens vote on a referendum question whether to adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund the Ride program.

As far as International Drive is concerned, if any current member of council deserves credit for keeping the issue moving toward completion it is Johnny Vaught. It was Vaught’s uncle, retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who initially addressed the need for International Drive and continued to push for the project from the early 2000’s until his death in September 2013. I can still hear Vaught addressing council several times on the importance of International Drive always ending with “Get it done.”

After Johnny Vaught was elected to council in November 2014, he picked up where his uncle left off in seeing the project to completion next month.

A recent Facebook video on the Lazarus campaign page touts on to greater infrastructure as it pictures the Farrow Parkway interchange with U.S. 17 Bypass.

This is an unfortunate choice of roads to feature as it depicts one of the more outrageous projects the county has undertaken.

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Budgets, Elections and Micromanagement in Horry County

April 30, 2018 7:30 AM
Budgets, Elections and Micromanagement in Horry County

There are six weeks to go before county voters will go to the polls to vote in local, state and federal primary elections.

The race which seems to be drawing the largest amount of attention throughout Horry County at this time is the Republican Primary contest for Horry County Council Chairman between challenger Johnny Gardner and incumbent Mark Lazarus.

At the same time, Horry County Council is considering its budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018. Four weeks ago, Grand Strand Daily ran a story about the proposed FY 2019 budget calling it an election year budget because of provisions in the proposed budget that appear to be included just to attract voters to incumbents.

Unfortunately, this type of focus on the budget at election time does not serve the best interests of council or the citizens.

According to multiple sources within county government, decisions for Horry County are being micromanaged by a partnership between Lazarus and County Administrator Chris Eldridge.

This partnership proposed an average three percent merit raise for all county employees with somewhat larger raises targeted to public safety personnel (police, fire and EMS) in the FY2019 budget.

This is not to say the proposed raises are unjustified. However, this type of targeting and its associated hype during council’s Spring Budget Retreat appear to be more about the votes of county employees than the needs of the county. County employees along with their families, neighbors and friends comprise a large voting block.

The micromanagement partnership focus appears to be on the wrong issues, however.

Despite the proposed raises, Horry County Professional Firefighter Local 4345 of the International Association of Firefighters and Coastal Carolina Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 endorsed the candidacy of Gardner in the upcoming June 12, 2018 primary.

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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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Local Reflections on 2016

December 22, 2016 5:14 AM
Local Reflections on 2016

Reflecting back on the year’s events in these last days of 2016, several local issues stand out that will carry over unresolved into the New Year.

The International Drive project is a perfect example of what many citizens find wrong in the country today. The project is highly popular with a vast majority of citizens because of the ‘back door’ ingress and egress it will give to Carolina Forest neighborhoods.

Horry County spent the year winning one court hearing after another over environmental groups trying to block the project. Some construction work was done in the fall after permits were issued by SCDHEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

However, a temporary stay issued by a federal court, since removed, and now a stay against the permits issued by the state court of appeals leaves the project once again stalled awaiting further court dates.

I first rode with General Vaught in his four wheel truck on what is now called International Drive when it was nothing more than a dirt track through the woods. There is no vast environmental disaster waiting to happen if construction of International Drive is completed.

Nevertheless, a small group of environmentalists continues to thwart the wishes of a vast majority of the citizens while completion of a much needed road continues to be delayed.

Staying with the county, much needed changes in the Horry County Police Department have begun with the hiring of a new chief in the fall.

After a year in which the county and its police department was hit with a series of lawsuits over the conduct of officers, notably those in the detective division, over a series of years, hopefully those transgressions will be ending.

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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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Fact Checking the Conservationists on International Drive

August 5, 2016 4:54 AM
Fact Checking the Conservationists on International Drive

In the August 2, 2016 edition of the Sun News, an “Other Voices” letter about the International Drive project, written by Amy Armstrong of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Dana Beach of the Coastal Conservation League and Ben Gregg of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (Conservationists), appeared in the Opinion Section .

This letter claims the delays in paving International Drive are not due to Conservation efforts. In that letter, the Conservationists make many pernicious and blatantly false claims. The letter demonstrates that the Conservationists view their readership to be woefully uninformed and gullible to gargantuan proportion. In fact, they may depend on that.

Let’s fact check those claims, based on an Administrative Law Court Ruling issued on July 7 this year and other resources so that a factual voice of our community can be heard.

The letter claims Horry County “reneged” on an earlier contractual agreement and “pressured” DNR to remove their requirement for bear crossings. Law Court: “Petitioners attempted to support the need for bear tunnels based upon the inference that but for the nefarious negotiations between Horry and DNR between 2010 and 2013, the bear tunnel requirement would not have been eliminated from the permit. But Petitioners failed to meet their burden of proof in this respect. As explained above, the change in DNR’s position occurred as a result of a significant decline in the existence of bears in LOB. Furthermore, the director of DNR unequivocally denied that any such underhanded dealings took place between Horry and DNR leading up to the 2013 agreement. The Court found his testimony highly credible and persuasive”.

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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 Delay SCDNR Fault

February 11, 2016 12:03 PM
International Drive Delay SCDNR Fault

The delay in completion of International Drive can be laid directly at the feet of SC Department of Natural Resources.

I saw where a local media outlet attempted to get information on bear population in the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve from the SCDNR recently, only to be told the documents sought would cost $133.64.

Many South Carolina governments and their associated agencies attempt to hide behind the clause in the FOIA law that allows them to charge requesters for the cost of providing the informatiion. They frankly hope the cost won’t be paid and the information will stay secret.

Our own Horry County Solid Waste Authority is one of the worst transgressors.

But, this response to a request that has direct bearing on the continuing delay over permitting for International Drive was to be expected.

Specifically, SC Department of Natural Resources officials have, seemingly, intentionally held up finishing and paving the road bed of International Drive for over 10 years.

Initially the SCDNR attempted to keep Horry County from even considering expanding International Drive from its original dirt track through the woods into a passable, two lane road because of alleged red cockaded woodpeckers supposedly nesting in the right of way.

It was ludicrous, but underneath lay a bigger problem – for whatever reason, SCDNR did not want the road built.

After several years of being stalled, the county managed to solve problem by changing the position of the International Drive right of way to avoid the alleged woodpecker habitat.

As the county got into serious planning and acquired the funds to complete International Drive, SCDNR shifted its concerns to black bears in the woods near the road. This included forcing the county to plan for bear crossing tunnels underneath the road, raising the cost of construction and further delaying the start.

This SCDNR roadblock was, again, ridiculous. By this logic, most roads in Horry County, at least west of the waterway, should include bear crossing tunnels.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Vaught, a strong supporter of the International Drive project, asked a meeting of Horry County Council the question, “Where is a black bear going to cross the road?” He provided the answer in his own inimitable style, “Any damn where he pleases!”

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