A discussion of a proposed median along U.S. 17 bypass in Pawleys Island drew strong response Tuesday from residents who packed a meeting room at the Georgetown County Courthouse.
During a public hear hearing 13 residents lined up to speak, many of whom were against the road plan, citing safety issues and a negative economic impact on business.
The Highway 17 Median Improvement Project, will install a 4- to 5-feet-high concrete median along most of U.S. 17 in Pawleys Island. The barriers will extend from Waverly Rd. to just north of Archer Rd.
The barriers will create a series of U-turns to replace the open median now used for left-turns. Pedestrian accesses will not be affected, according to the plan.
“It’s going to stop an infinite amount of left-hand turns into traffic,” said Bob Anderson, Georgetown County Council member for District 6. “You’ve always got confusion – you can’t stop everything.”
“We (the Council) really have nothing to do with that project, and folks just don’t seem to understand that,” Anderson said, adding the project was taken over by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in 2007. DOT held public meetings and accepted public comment until May 2012, Anderson said.
“For this project, a lot of people look at it in terms of an access (to businesses) situation,” said Michael Hirsh, resident and business partner in Pawleys Island. “I’m looking at it in a safety issue. If anybody has to turn left into traffic, that’s dangerous, and there’s going to be a higher risk of accidents.”
The project was designed to make the road safer, lessening left-hand turns and traffic accidents, Anderson said. The medians are also projected to ease traffic flow in Pawleys Island, with road beautification further down the list.
“The Council is basically a body that sets policy, we don’t design roads, and I think (the protestors’) issues are about the design,” Anderson said.
“There’s not going to be any landscaping, it’s not a beautification project,” said Pat Gadek, Pawleys Island resident. “There’s not even room for pedestrians.”
Gadek, among others, were protesting in front of the courthouse as part of the “Don’t Strip the Neck” group, in association with Citizens Coalition for Ocean Highway Issues.
Economic impact of local businesses also concerned some speakers, including resident Alicia Hart.
“I’m concerned about the negative impact and the loss of property value,” Hart said, explaining how a lack of pedestrians would lead to a lack of walk-in business for area stores.
“There’s not a plan for any landscape – it’s nothing but a concrete jungle, a mass of confusion for tourists,” Hart said
Doug Eggiman, Pawleys Island Fire Chief, signed off on the design last year, Anderson said, reiterating the project’s goal of making Highway 17 safer and easier to use for emergency services.
“We didn’t fund it, we’re not managing it, and I’m not sure what those folks want us to do,” Anderson said. “It’s not a county project.”
Most of the large public turnout left the meeting after the public hearing session was closed, though some stayed to hear the outcome of a rezoning ordinance.
Council issue its’ second reading of an ordinance to rezone about eight acres located in Petigru Dr. in Pawleys Island. The ordinance would change the land from a general residential status to a general commercial zoning, but the issue was tabled.
Also Tuesday, council discussed and passed to a third reading of the proposed 2013-2014 budget, along with a 5 percent pay increase for county employees. County Council is seeking to restore pay from cuts several years ago. The county cut public employees’ pay by 3 percent in 2009, which prevented layoffs, so the increase would allow salaries to catch up to current living costs.
“They did get (pay) supplements the last two years, but that’s not the same as a raise,” said Jackie Broach, the county’s public information officer. “But those supplements didn’t roll over the next year, so it’s not the same.”
The proposed budget council will review calls for an increase of .6 mills in the general fund, .4 mills in the law enforcement fund, 1.9 mills for County Fire/EMS and .8 mills for Midway Fire Rescue, Broach said.
The millage increase would amount to a total of $7.20 on a home valued at $100,000 in the Midway Fire District if that home is listed as a primary residence, and $11.60 on that same home in all other areas of the county.