The order blocking construction of International Drive was lifted Friday by the S.C. Court of Appeals, but once the road is completed, it only can be used for emergency vehicles until the case is eventually heard and the judges make a final decision.
Horry County officials requested that the stay be lifted, pledging to keep the road closed to the public until the case is decided, and also agreed not to connect International Drive to adjacent properties.
In arguments asking that the stay be lifted, the county said it would cost taxpayers about $1 million to maintain the dirt road bed and prevent the soil from getting swept away, polluting nearby creeks and wetlands.
Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman, called the court decision a “home run” for local residents.
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“It means we can go back to work and start constructing the road,” Lazarus said. “We still have challenges ahead of us to go through in the appeals court, and we understand that, but at least we are able to continue work building the road for emergency purposes and personnel.”
“The end goal is to get it where citizens who voted on this road are able to utilize it for public safety measures, as we have always said it is for,” Lazarus said.
Construction of the 5.6-mile road linking Carolina Forest to S.C. Highway 90 was approved as part of the RIDE II project. The estimated cost now stands at $15.5 million.
The construction project is opposed by the Coastal Conservation League and S.C. Wildlife Federation, who lost challenges in state and federal courts, but won the right to rehear one of the decisions in the state appeals court.
Dana Beach, executive director of the league, said that if the county finishes building the road, it will defeat the purpose of their case to block construction.
“We are asking them to reconsider the decision,” Beach said. “This is a 180-degree departure from their earlier rulings, with no change in facts or law. They offer no explanation of their rationale.”
The court order stated that “after careful consideration and based on the representations made by the parties since this court’s initial issuance of the stay, we no longer believe a stay ‘is necessary to preserve jurisdiction of the appeal or to prevent a contested issue from becoming moot.’”
County construction crews began work on the road this summer using county equipment to clear the right-of-way and other preparations.
The construction stay was ordered by the court Dec. 15, the same day the county was prepared to open bids and then award a contract to complete the road.
Lazarus said county officials will quickly move forward with that process and award the contract, which calls for the road to be completed within 12 months.