Hoping to maintain the peace between Coastal Carolina University students and nearby homeowners, Conway leaders plan to adopt some Horry County policies for parking and housing in neighboring communities.
Nearly six years ago, Horry County officials created an overlay zone with specific rules for neighborhoods close to the campus. The move was a response to complaints from residents about the influx of college students crowding into houses and parking in yards, streets and ditches. The affected communities included Quail Creek and College Park. A committee of students, homeowners, landlords and other leaders hammered out some policies, which county officials approved. Residents and local leaders say the regulations have worked well for the area.
But now that the city has begun annexing properties in those neighborhoods, community leaders are concerned because Conway doesn’t have the same rules Horry County does. They don’t want to repeat the same fight.
For example, in the county’s overlay zone, the number of unrelated residents in a house must correspond with the number of bedrooms. That means a three-bedroom house may only have three unrelated people living there. The county’s policies for that area also state that residents must park in driveways, garages and carports between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Since the zone was created, officials say more than a dozen properties in the area have been annexed into the city and that number continues to grow.
“Quail Creek people were very happy with that overlay district,” said Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught, who represents the area and met with Conway City Council on Monday. “What we’re asking is that the city, when you annex a piece of property in our overlay district, just allow the overlay rules to stay in place.”
During Monday’s workshop on the topic, some city leaders asked why Conway should limit the rules to specific neighborhoods.
“The only problem I have is that you have a second set of rules for a very small portion of the city,” said City Councilwoman Barbara Blain-Olds. “I have trouble reconciling that.”
Adam Emrick, Conway’s planning director, crafted the original policy when he worked for Horry County Government. He said the overlay zone was designed to address specific neighborhoods near the Coastal campus.
“We could not include every neighborhood in this,” he said. “We included the ones that were the nearest to the college and had the biggest problems. … There was a bigger issue than one house in the neighborhood. It was becoming every house or every third house.”
Mike Trotta, who has lived in Quail Creek for a dozen years, told city council that the policies have done what they were designed to. When problems do arise, he said, most students are receptive to his concerns.
“If I see that there’s problems going on, I’m proactive about it,” he said. “I’ll stop, I’ll knock on the door and 99 percent of the time the kids are like, ‘OK, no problem We’ll take care of it.’”
Since the rules have worked well for the county, Conway leaders agreed they should adopt them for the properties annexed in those neighborhoods.
“It’s already being done,” said City Councilman William Goldfinch. “It ain’t perfect, but it seems reasonable.”
Officials noted that keeping the same policies would simplify the annexation process. They also said it would make enforcement less complicated for police.
“It makes the transition easier,” Mayor Alys Lawson said. “And you’re adding more enforcement actually for what is a potential problem.”
Vaught, the county councilman, concurred.
“Annexation is going to take place out there,” he said. “Let’s make it as smooth and as seamless as it can be.”
City leaders said the matter would go before the planning commission before coming back to the full council for a vote.
No smoking in parks
In other action Monday, city leaders took their final vote on a policy that bans smoking at public parks, ballfields, city events and inside city vehicles.
The ordinance is less restrictive than the proposal council members voted down last month. The previous ordinance would have outlawed smoking in nearly all private businesses.
Its failure marked the end of a months-long debate about worker safety, business owners’ freedoms and public health.