Horry County officials want to make sure the majority of council would approve allowing storage containers as living areas for homeless veterans before spending the time researching how it works in other communities.
The Veterans Housing Development Corp. plans to build a gated community in the area to help homeless veterans get back on their feet.
Janet Carter, director of zoning for Horry County, said the plans fit within the county’s mixed use zoning laws, because organizers, who spoke to the county’s infrastructure and regulation committee Thursday, said they plan to have a small store, a medical facility and more within the gated community. An exact spot for the nearly 3-acre village has not been determined.
There are about 50,000 homeless veterans nationwide, and roughly 300 in Horry County. Carter said she wants to make sure council initially has interest in it before her staff does the research.
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“Is this something that council will support?” Carter said. “I don’t want to bring up a bad taste for anybody, but we don’t want to spend a year and a half with the planning commission developing standards and have it voted down at first reading, if at all possible.”
“We’ve done that a time or two haven’t we?” said councilman Jody Prince, chairman of the committee.
The reference was to the mobile food truck ordinance Carter’s office studied through some of 2013 and much of 2014. Her office conducted surveys, examined sample ordinances elsewhere, and debated details of the proposed ordinance only for it to get voted down by council in October 2014.
The food truck ordinance was eventually revisited and approved in early 2015.
The storage container project is a concept by Veterans Housing Development — a nonprofit organization aimed at providing housing for homeless veterans in the southeastern United States. The group does not have a built out village yet, which is what they are trying to accomplish in Horry County.
We want to have something that council’s on board with.”
Janet Carter, director of Horry County planning and zoning
“Veterans Village is a self-contained community,” said Chris Clark, director of design for Veterans Housing Development. “Veterans can feel like they are still with their brotherhood.”
The group pitched the idea to the city of Myrtle Beach earlier this year. The city did not vote on the proposal, but changes would need to be made to the city’s ordinances to bring the village within its limits, said Mark Kruea, spokesman for the city.
Thomas Costello, director of construction and fundraising for the group, said the housing aims to empower veterans and get them back on their feet.
“If it takes 10 years, they can stay here, but we don’t want them long-term,” Costello said. “We basically want to help them out and get them started again and bring them back functionally.”
Carter said the county has a planned development district, which is basically build your own zoning.
“It would have to be a mixed use and [Clark] has described a mix use with social services and medical facilities on site,” Carter said. “They have to meet the International Residential Code. If they can meet the IRC, and they can get the property rezoned to a [planned development district], then I think this is something that can be done.”
Carter said she just wants to make sure her staff’s time is being best used.
“We want to have something that council’s on board with,” Carter said. “We don’t want to come back with something that you’re just not interested in.”