A group of Grande Dunes residents are up in arms over a road that would link their exclusive neighborhood of estate homes with a gated community under development to their north, which they say would overwhelm village streets and a private bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway.
The proposed Grande Dunes North development by LStar Communities in North Myrtle Beach would establish 858 new luxury townhouses, cottages and estate homes on 241 acres, with U.S. 31 as the only main access.
The single road in dispute would connect the two developments, but access into Grande Dunes would be limited to only those who belong to the Members Club private golf course, entering through a rear security gate that would block access into the Golf Village community, says George Johnson, LStar division president.
Grande Dunes residents argue that access into their village should be blocked at the back entrance, but the new northern residents could access their community through the front gate and bridge at the U.S. 17 Bypass if they belonged to the private golf club, as a shortcut home.
“We don’t want any connectivity, we want two separate communities and we want it to stay that way,” said Grande Dunes resident Gerald Ogden.
A petition is circulating within the Grande Dunes community asking the Myrtle Beach City Council and planning commissions to deny LStar permission to construct the connecting road. Resident Tony Cucchiaro says more than 100 signatures have been gathered and that the petition will be presented to the planning commission.
Ogden and Grande Dunes resident Gary Foster say they are concerned that LStar is essentially selling road and bridge access in their village through golf club memberships that cost $7,500 and nearly $500 a month for dues. Otherwise, Grande Dunes North could only be accessed from U.S. 31.
“We don’t trust LStar,” Foster said. “If we grant them access, what’s to keep them from changing the covenant and later on saying ‘the gate’s not working, let’s leave it up.’”
We don’t want any connectivity, we want two separate communities and we want it to stay that way.
Gerald Ogden, Grande Dunes resident
The residents said they are concerned that the added traffic will reduce the value of their property.
“We’ve got our life savings in here,” Ogden said.
LStar has not applied to the city for any changes in the Grande Dunes Planned Unit Development application to build the road, but city approval is needed, said Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach spokesman.
Dozens of Grande Dune residents clogged a city council meeting last week to protest the road, but council members declined to discuss the issue because it was not part of their official agenda for the workshop session.
Residents described the new road to the council as a thoroughfare, but Mayor John Rhodes said “that’s not going to happen.”
“It’s not an item on the agenda, so we’re really not going to discuss it any further,” Rhodes said. “I hate to say it and see you all come down like this for a waste of time, but I do appreciate the impact and the information you’re giving us about the way the community feels and the petition. That will help us a lot with information we need to know.”
Steven Diehm, a Grande Dunes resident who is part of an informal advisory committee that has been meeting with LStar on the new development, said city council members requested that they vote on the issue to indicate how the community feels about the proposal, but that the panel split and some opponents opted to protest through the petition.
If the Members Club were to become a public or a resort course, then the nature of the people driving through our neighborhood would change dramatically, and all of us would prefer it was Grande Dunes owners driving through our private roads.
Steven Diehm, Grand Dunes resident
Diehm said he is “ambivalent” about the connectivity issue because the details have not been settled. But he does not think the new development will add significant new traffic, and he said that boosting the golf club membership from 200 to 400 with patrons from within Dunes’ properties would be the best solution for protecting private property values and reducing traffic across the bridge.
“If the Members Club were to become a public or a resort course, then the nature of the people driving through our neighborhood would change dramatically, and all of us would prefer it was Grande Dunes owners driving through our private roads,” Diehm said.
Johnson said critics of the connecting road have not taken into consideration the benefits it would provide — an emergency exit in case of disasters like a hurricane, and as a new entrance for vendor traffic and service workers going to the Members Club.
“It does have benefits, in that it reduces or offsets some of the traffic that goes over the Grande Dunes bridge,” Johnson said.
Members do have access from the bridge, but Diehm said that adding the rear entrance means that new members from the north would also use that entrance, rather than traveling across the bridge from U.S. 17 Bypass, which is currently used by members from other Dunes properties.
The Sun News reporter Emily Weaver contributed to this article.
Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson