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Developer announces plans for Bay Tree land

Centex Homes released plans Tuesday to build an urban village with 900 homes - including a town center, 6-acre park and outdoor ampitheater - in place of Bay Tree Golf Plantation's three golf courses.

The Grand Strand's largest builder will break ground in January on the development, called RiverGrand.

The 529-acre property will include a 275-unit retirement center and shopping center, developers said at a news conference announcing the plans.

Residents living around Bay Tree fought the rezoning at County Council a year ago because many would lose their golf course views, but the plan was approved in July 2005.

Centex has designed the development as a walkable neighborhood, or traditional neighborhood development - a trend in building that gives residents a place to live, work and play.

Small retail outlets such as specialty shops and eateries will line the first floor of the town center at RiverGrand. Condos will fill the top floors, with 500 multifamily units and 900 single-family homes surrounding the center.

"We are going to build something that is totally new for the Little River area," said Ken Balogh, Myrtle Beach division president for Centex Homes. "In fact, there is nothing else like it in this part of Horry County."

Balogh said surveys of homeowners show they prefer the walkable neighborhood.

Development of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base is also being built as an urban village, but on a larger scale. The Market Common, and its surrounding neighborhood, Withers Preserve, break ground this fall.

Planners say these mixed-use neighborhoods are a better way to build because they help reduce sprawl and promote walking and exercise.

Horry County planners are creating a new zoning category for traditional neighborhood developments.

Right now, such developments can be built only under planned-unit development zoning.

Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said these kinds of neighborhoods attract many who are looking to live on the Strand.

The ampitheater, he added, may be the first of its kind on the Strand, and will also attract residents and tourists.

The community will have a 3-acre residents' center with three resort-style swimming pools. The two main entrances to RiverGrand from U.S. 17 and S.C. 9 will have stoplights.

The project will take eight years to build, with sales starting in March. Prices will start in the high $100,000s to the $500,000s.

Council members say they OK'd the rezoning so they could have some control over what is built and win concessions from developers, including a reduction of 200 units and a $1,000 fee for each home built. That adds up to about $2 million in stormwater improvements.

"The people that opposed it in the end will realize this will be the best way to go. There was no doubt the golf course was going to be sold," said County Councilman Paul Prince.