Issac J. Bailey | Speak now or forever hold your peace if you support a Wal-Mart in Pawleys

A Different PerspectiveSeptember 20, 2012 

In 2005, I did not get why so many in the Pawleys Island community were upset at the possibility of a Lowes Home Improvement being built in the area.

Seven years later, I don’t get why some of the same arguments used against a Lowes so-called “big-box” store are being recycled against a proposed Wal-Mart development.

In 2005, it was essentially, “Don’t box the Neck.”

Today, it is essentially, “Don’t box the Neck.”

What was most interesting is that then, as it seems now, the voices against are drowning out those for the development and the potential for hundreds of new jobs and a shorter drive to ultra-popular Wal-Mart.

Those against organized then and showed up at the planning meetings and eventually convinced officials to block Lowes, even though the chain went out of its way to come up with an architectural design that would enhance, not take away from the area in which it would have been built.

It included lots of large trees in the layout and specially designed signs, a store entrance pushed well back from U.S. 17 and road upgrades.

That wasn’t enough for residents who believed the presence of a big-box store – anyone – in Pawleys Island was an affront to the dignity of the area.

Those who wanted the development were much quieter. They called me, like the opponents. But they wouldn’t leave their names and spoke in hushed tones, as though someone would overhear their desire for Lowes and smite them.

I’m hoping that doesn’t happen again. I’m hoping that those who wanted Lowes and the hundreds of jobs it would have brought but were afraid to speak up don’t make that mistake again.

Residents in opposition are making their voices heard. They are easy to find and easy to hear and are making it clear that they don’t want a Wal-Mart – even though the chain would be redeveloping a small retail center that has been mostly empty for as long as anyone can remember.

I’ve visited the Bank of America ATM at the entrance of that center many times over the years. Not once have I considered shopping in one of its stores because it has the same feel of what used to be Waccamaw Pottery in the Myrtle Beach area, one that screams abandoned, not welcome.

Those opposed would rather see that eyesore remain instead of have a Wal-Mart move in.

They also talk about potential traffic problems, as they did in 2005. But that type of talk happens every time plans for a major retailer are announced. It happened most recently in the Garden City Beach area when Wal-Mart built there. Since it opened, traffic has not been a problem.

And they talk about other issues, including the perfectly legitimate claim that when Wal-Mart moves into an area it sucks the life out of smaller retail businesses.

But that would be a stronger argument in this case if the retail center that might be bulldozed to make way for the super store was actually full or near capacity.

It’s not.

No matter any of that, though, because in 2005 I heard from people who regretted not making their voices heard, primarily because they either were afraid of or felt intimidated by the loud, strong voice of the opposition.

I wonder if they will make that mistake again.

Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, ibailey@thesunnews.com or via Twitter.com at @TSN_IssacBailey or @ijbailey.

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