With the future of Indian Wells Golf Club’s hanging in the balance, it was a packed house at Thursday night’s Horry County Planning & Zoning meeting.
Unfortunately for those in attendance, the property’s future is still in limbo.
With a large crowd overflowing the multipurpose room where the commission meets, a rezoning request to turn the Garden City golf course into a mixed-use housing development project was voted down.
Following much debate, and a speech from South Carolina Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, the commission nixed the recommendation, going against the Horry County planning staff’s approval.
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This does not, however, mean the golf course will be saved.
Interim Planning Director David Schwerd said homes can still be built on the property under its current zoning code of SF6, which allows for residential homes on minimum lot sizes of 6,000 square feet. The Horry County planning staff asked to create plans for it if the rezoning was not approved. Under the SF6 zoning, the developers could build 693 total units of both single-family lots and duplexes, as long as it meets county standards.
“The developer could turn around tomorrow and start working on it,” planning commission chair Steven Neeves said.
SF6 does not allow for commercial properties.
The rezoning request discussed Thursday would allow the building of a development plan submitted to Horry County that has fewer homes. The property owner, Founders Group International, has a proposal to turn the golf course into a mix of townhomes, single-family homes and possibly some commercial businesses.
Approximately 500 homes would be built in total, with 255 single-family lots and 257 townhomes. The commercial possibilities would have to be “community retail services,” per the zoning code the owners requested.
Under county requirements, the property owners would be required to make necessary improvements for traffic and stormwater draining. Some of the specific plans on how to do those were still in the works. A traffic study of the Garden City Connector was completed and will be reviewed by staff, but Thom Roth with Horry County Stormwater said he had not seen the complete plans for retaining stormwater on the property.
“But they are requirements,” Roth said, speaking to the stormwater regulations in Horry County that require slower discharge than normal. “How they meet them, I don’t know yet. But they have to.”
Schwerd said people often assume golf courses are good at absorbing water, and developing them could lead to less flood protections, but in fact they’re designed to get rid of moisture as quickly as possible into retention ponds that are used for irrigation.
“If anybody plays golf, the whole idea is to get the water off the course as fast as possible into the ponds,” he said. “Apparently that’s where my balls go.”
Goldfinch said the agent for the property owner, Walter Warren of Thomas & Hutton Engineering firm, has been great to work with, but this plan was “putting lipstick on a pig.” Goldfinch asked Warren if he would differ so that improvements could be made to the plan and “turn it into bacon.”
“And who doesn’t like bacon?” said Goldfinch, who spoke on behalf of the people living in the community, expressing concerns over traffic, the viability of commercial businesses in the community and other issues.
The rezoning request will still go on to Horry County Council, even though it was not recommended by the planning commission. The council could technically ignore the commission’s recommendation.
“I encourage you to see this through the process,” Neeves said.