The plan that built Carolina Forest expires this week. What’s going to change?

Timelapse: Carolina Forest Boulevard

View from Carolina Forest Blvd looking east to Postal Way interchange over 12 hour time span on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
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View from Carolina Forest Blvd looking east to Postal Way interchange over 12 hour time span on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

The development agreement to build Carolina Forest, crafted 20 years ago, will expire Saturday, and while the Myrtle Beach bedroom community has grown to maturity, there is still room for newcomers and additional growth.

But with new residential and commercial areas will come updated zoning rules and regulations, because under the old agreement, zoning rules were frozen in place for those two decades.

“It doesn’t eliminate any restrictions, in fact, it will allow the county to enforce our more current standards,” said David Schwerd, deputy director of Horry County Planning and Zoning, said of the Carolina Forest development agreement.

“Right now, the development agreement requires us to enforce our regulations from 20 years ago,” Schwerd said.

Land development regulations have been updated five times since the plan was executed on Dec. 9, 1997 as part of the agreement to develop an 11-square mile area of forest that once belonged to International Paper.

The biggest rule change will be access management, meaning new housing developments will be required to have more than one entrance, Schwerd said.

“If you look at Southgate, they only have one access for all those lots, that wouldn’t be allowed under today’s standards,” Schwerd said “They would have to have two access points, and plantation Lakes would have to have two permanent access points.”

The original plan allowed for more than two million square feet of commercial use, but only 775,000 has been developed.

Carolina Forest was also permitted to have 2,600 hotel rooms yet has none, and six golf courses were approved for the area.

There are the two golf courses that were constructed as part of Waterford Plantation, but those are not within the development agreement, Schwerd said.

The construction of 20,683 residential units was approved in the original plan, and after 20 years it is still 3,757 short of that goal, Schwerd said.

The county agreed to temporarily freeze zoning rules for two decades in exchange for a donation of land to the county to build park and roads. More than 100 acres was also set aside to eventually construct Ocean Bay Elementary and middle schools.

Additionally, 87 acres was set aside to construct a portion of Carolina Bays Parkway.

The major complaint among residents is that new road construction has not kept up with the population growth.

According to U.S. Census figures, the population increased from 3,400 in 2000 to about 33,000 today.

The RIDE III project to widen Carolina Forest Boulevard breaks ground in about a year and that will eventually ease congestion.

Until then, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says they will take a closer look at rezoning requests for new residential areas surrounding the official Carolina Forest development zone.

Traffic studies do show that traffic along Carolina Forest Boulevard near River Oaks Drive nearly doubled between 2007 and 2015, growing from 8,700 daily trips to more than 15,000.

Congestion also thickens around the commercial areas near Postal Way. But those numbers have barely budged since 2008 when the count was 24,000.