The “Bear Tracts” development on Old Highway 90 is heading to Horry County Council with a stamp of disapproval. On Thursday, the Horry County Planning Commission voted to not recommend the housing development to council.
The Bear Tracts are located near Reaves Ferry Road. The plan would put nearly 1,500 homes in the area. The property neighbors the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, a nature preserve that is owned by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
The plan drew concern from the Coastal Conservation League, Horry County Parks and Open Spaces board and SCDNR. DDC Engineers’ Mike Wooten, the principal agent for the Bear Tracts development, said the he spoke with representatives from SCDNR. Earlier this week the government agency sent a letter to the planning commission retracting some of its previous concerns.
That does not mean the property will not be developed in some capacity. County council could still approve the project. Even without council support, the land developers still have the option of building given their current zoning code for development.
To put it simply, the land is grandfathered in unless they try to change the zoning — then the new map applies to them.
The housing market has changed since that zoning request, Wooten said, and this new development plan would be better for the current needs of people coming to Horry County and current residents.
Regardless of the decision, Wooten said that the area will be developed, as his clients are counting on this land to contribute to their retirement plans. Under current zoning, Wooten told the commission that about 800 homes could be built on the area. If council does not approve the proposed plan, however, Wooten said his clients will build, but they will not pay for the improvements beyond those they are required to under law.
Under the plan presented to the planning commission, the developers promised to pay nearly $1.4 million to the county to contribute to the impact of the new development. In addition, the developers said they would pay the money to help improve Highway 90 and Old Highway 90.
The planning commission is a technical review that looks at county rules and regulations and makes a recommendation to county council. The meeting was packed with people wearing stickers in opposition to the project. During the lengthy debate, the meeting went into executive session to discuss a legal matter, which is not a regular occurrence for the commission.
While the public is not able to sit in on legal discussions in executive session, concerns of “spot zoning” were discussed at last Thursday’s commission workshop meeting. Spot zoning occurs when planning commission goes against its approved comprehensive plan. Under the Envision 2025 plan, the Bear Tracts are built on land designated for conservation.
The housing development will be presented, with public comment, at the Nov. 13 council meeting. After that the proposed plan will need approval on third reading before it is officially disapproved.
The reason the development will go straight to second reading is council sent it back to planning commission, but voted it through first reading.
“I encourage you to follow this until the end,” commission chair Steven Neeves said.