A 1,000-unit development delayed over ‘potentially disastrous’ flooding issue

Horry County Council this week delayed approving a 1,000-unit development on Heather Glen Golf Course in Little River after one councilor raised concerns about flooding in the Heather Lakes subdivision.

County planners argue that the proposed zoning change for development features 57 acres of ponds, a 35-foot buffer and more open-space requirements than the existing zoning, and will reduce potential drainage problems that neighbors could have during a big storm.

But District 1 councilor Harold Worley, who represents the area, doesn’t want to see anything built at all until blockages in Mullet Creek are cleared out.

He said he was concerned that a major weather event such as a hurricane might cause a backup in the creek and flood out the Heather Lakes neighborhood, which is located southeast of the planned development.

“I just need this problem solved right here, so it don’t flood these people out and wipe out Heather Lakes,” Worley said. “I want Mullet Creek fixed, and I want it fixed before that development starts.”

A drainage pipe under Highway 17 that funnels Mullet Creek from Heather Lakes to the east side of the highway is blocked up, said Horry County Stormwater Manager Tom Garigen.

“A drainage pipe like this will operate under pressure,” Garigen said. “I think what happened was when they put that in, it was at the bottom of Mullet Creek at that time. Since that time, we’ve had a lot of sedimentation and silt build up in that downstream area and probably somewhat upstream.”

So far, landowners along the creek and downstream of the pipe have balked at the idea of work being done on their property.

Brad Brundage with homebuilder D.R. Horton said he has reached out to property owners in the area, including Ken Moss of Mullet Creek Partners, to increase drainage in the creek. Moss co-owns property that lies east of SC-179.

Moss said he has talked to D.R. Horton and was open to clearing out the creek, but is opposed to putting an easement in his property to increase water flow.

“I don’t want to interfere with any plans we might have with our own property in the future,” he said. “To do something of a permanent nature is concerning to us.”

Linda Siceloff, who owns the land just east of Highway 17 where the blocked drainage pipe is located, said she hasn’t been contacted about an easement and also is opposed to any work done on her land.

“I just don’t care for any easements to be placed on my property,” she said.

But Worley said that taxpayers would eventually have to pay to fix the problem if the developers and property owners couldn’t get it done.

“It needs to be fixed,” he said. “It would be very, very irresponsible for us to approve any project in this watershed that sends water to the Intracoastal Waterway from Mullet Creek without getting it fixed.”

Council Chair Mark Lazarus and councilor Dennis DiSabato said the land will be developed anyway. They’re in favor of the rezoning request because the development under the proposed zoning has more drainage capacity than it would under current zoning.

“This property is going to be developed one way or another,” DiSabato said. “What it boils down to is a very simple question for staff. If it’s developed under its current zoning, is it going to make that situation worse or better? It’s going to make it worse.”

Lazarus said the proposed zoning is a better option than the existing zoning.

“I’ll do anything to help solve that problem, but I believe if we move this forward, we’re giving the citizens a better product than what they’re going to get (under the current zoning)” he said.

And rezoning the property to prevent development entirely won’t work either, Lazarus said.

“The owner of the property would have to do that.”

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian