Developers to change plan to overhaul Pawleys Island shopping center after resident outrage over proposed big box store

dbryant@thesunnews.comNovember 28, 2012 

The developer that wants to overhaul Pawleys Plaza has nixed plans to build a 119,500-square-foot building, a move that comes after months of outrage from Pawleys Island area residents who said such a store would take away from the community’s character.

Sunbelt Ventures said in a letter Wednesday to the Georgetown County Council that it plans to meet with representatives of the group Don’t Box the Neck, which has opposed the plan, to change the project so the size of the buildings “better align” with the requirements of the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone, which prohibits buildings larger than 60,000 square feet.

Sunbelt Ventures’ original plan was to build a big-box store nearly twice that size just outside that zone, but it created opposition from residents -- many of whom kept Lowe’s Home Improvement store from building in their community about seven years ago -- who said such a store would create too much traffic, hurt small businesses and take away from a community that proudly calls itself “arrogantly shabby.”

“I’m glad that they understand now that the community does not want that big box store,” said SueAnn Crawford, committee chairwoman for Don’t Box the Neck. “I’d like to see buildings that basically fit with the ordinance.”

Crawford said her group is expected to get its first look at the overhauled plan Thursday.

The Georgetown County Planning Commission had recommended to County Council in September that the redevelopment plan meet the requirements of the overlay zone, which would mean the 119,500-square-foot building would not have been allowed if the County Council followed the commission’s recommendation. It’s up to the County Council whether to follow the planning commission’s recommendation.

Sunbelt has asked the county to move second reading of its request before County Council, scheduled for Dec. 11, to Jan. 8. Sunbelt said it plans to meet with Don’t Box the Neck about the changes to the plan to overhaul the 27-year-old shopping center.

“Gaining community and council support is imperative to Sunbelt Ventures, and vital to this project’s long-term success,” Dusty Wiederhold, Sunbelt’s managing development member, said in the letter. “The end goal is to turn a declining shopping center that currently sits as an eyesore into a usable, visually appealing retail center that complies with the architectural standards of the Waccamaw Neck Overlay Zone.”

Sunbelt Ventures had said that Wal-Mart was a potential tenant for that big-box building but no agreement had been finalized with the retailer as of September. Wal-Mart has stores roughly 15 miles to the north and south of Pawleys Island.

Crawford said that Don’t Box the Neck isn’t concerned with what stores open in the shopping center, only the size of them. The group wants developers to know that they must meet the size requirements in the overlay zone and not even pitch a plan that has bigger buildings.

Though the group is glad that the large building at Pawleys Plaza is off the table, they still want to assess the new plan before declaring success.

“There’s nothing to celebrate yet,” Crawford said.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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