‘A mistake in voting no’: Horry council reverses its decision on Highway 905 development

Horry County councilman Gary Loftus listens during an open session meeting at the Horry County Courthouse Friday.
Horry County councilman Gary Loftus listens during an open session meeting at the Horry County Courthouse Friday. jbell@thesunnews.com

Horry County Council members changed their minds on a rezoning request at Tuesday’s meeting.

The issue was over County Council voting down an ordinance to rezone a piece of property along Highway 905 at the Feb. 5 meeting. The request wanted to turn the project into a 93-unit housing development. The ordinance failed 9-2, with council members Gary Loftus and Paul Prince being the only votes in favor. County Councilman Al Allen was not present at that meeting.

At the Feb. 19 meeting, however, Councilman Bill Howard asked for the project to be brought back for a new vote because he felt the discussion last meeting was not enough to determine the worth of the project. Loftus agreed, adding the last vote happened too quickly without the project’s agent Van Davenport being able to defend the plans.

When Horry County Council makes a vote on an ordinance, it doesn’t truly become official until the minutes are approved at the following meeting. It is the right of council members to ask for a redo of the vote before the minutes are approved. Council must then vote to reopen discussion on the topic and call for a new vote on the ordinance. If brought back, the ordinance is placed on the agenda and then council votes again. If it is approved, the most recent vote becomes official.

“I felt I had made a mistake in voting no,” Howard said when asked why he wanted to bring back the ordinance and change his vote. He said the project was approved by Horry County Planning Staff and by Planning Commission, and he wanted to change his vote to be in favor of the project.

The new vote approved the project, 8-4, with council members Tyler Servant, Dennis DiSabato, Harold Worley and Cam Crawford voting no. The project will go on to third reading at the upcoming County Council meeting on March 5.

Davenport, speaking on behalf of the developer Moses Johnson, said there were no changes to the plan since it had been voted down, but he added some clarifications to council.

“I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak to what I see as the merits of this project,” Davenport said.

The plan was to build 93 units off of Highway 905 in the Longs area. The requested zoning code MRD2 would allow for a minimum lot size of 7,500 square feet. Over 50 percent of the lots would be larger than the minimum lot size of the zoning code, according to the development plans submitted to Horry County.

In addition, the development will feature a pond, open space and walking paths.

Prince, who represents the district the development is being built in, said the area has a lot to offer and he supported the project.

“This project is right close to several churches, close to the Food Lion and the post office, and several convenience marts, it’s almost in walking distance to all these places,” Prince said. “It would be a good place to live.”

Davenport said no one from the public spoke against the project before it came to County Council for second reading. Servant said one woman, Longs resident Sharon Pollard, spoke against the project in general public comment at the last meeting.

According to the minutes from the Feb. 5 meeting, Pollard said people she spoke to were against the project and were concerned about the traffic it would create. Davenport said the S.C. Department of Transportation’s traffic study said the amount of traffic count on Highway 905 went down compared to where it was in 2012.

“I have no explanation why that traffic count has gone down in the section where this property is located,” Davenport said. He added traffic has increased by 4 percent on Highway 9, which intersects with Highway 905 near the property.

Development and Horry County reporter Tyler Fleming joined The Sun News in May of 2018. He covers other stuff too, like reporting on beer, bears, breaking news and Coastal Carolina University. He graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 and was the 2017-18 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. He has won (and lost) several college journalism awards.