‘The biggest messes in the county’: Horry debates next steps with Island Green development

Horry County Fire Rescue offers these tips in honor of Fire Prevention Week

To support the theme for the 2017 Fire Prevention Week “Every Second Counts-Plan 2 Ways Out”, Horry County Fire Rescue has added several valuable Public Education Templates to help you develop a Home Escape Plan for your family, all of which can b
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To support the theme for the 2017 Fire Prevention Week “Every Second Counts-Plan 2 Ways Out”, Horry County Fire Rescue has added several valuable Public Education Templates to help you develop a Home Escape Plan for your family, all of which can b

The Island Green community could have 1,800 homes and apartments with only one road in and out of the development.

With 331 new homes and 115 townhomes planned for the Socastee neighborhood, Horry County Planning Commission debated this week if Sunnehanna Drive into Island Green would be adequate for the increased demand.

When it became clear the plan would not pass Thursday afternoon, the commission deferred the decision to May 30 to give engineer Steve Powell of Venture Engineering more time to work with Horry County staff. Powell is acting on behalf of the property owner Bob Williamsen.

The issue discussed at the commission’s meeting is rooted in the history of the Island Green community itself.

Grandfathered in

The development was created before zoning and development codes existed, Horry County Planner John Danford said, which allowed higher density developments to be built on a single private road. The same development could not be built today.

County regulations require major developments to have at least two points of access for residents and emergency vehicles to safely enter and exit the area.

The developer is asking to waive some of the county’s requirements ahead of the new homes being built. The alternatives would be infeasible, Powell said.

“Is there not another way to get in and out?” Commissioner Marvin Hyde asked.

The land surrounding the project is federally owned and protected land, and the development does not share much of a border with any public roads. Danford said it would be hard to get another access point, and any possibility would be insignificant.

According to a traffic study conducted by the developer, there are over 7,000 daily trips on the road, creating a lot of wear.

A second point of entrance is not feasible given the constraints of the property, Powell said. Any plans would probably keep Sunnehanna Drive as the only entrance and exit.

“We’ve been working for two and half years for ways to improve Sunnehanna,” Powell said. “The road is in terrible shape.”

Powell does not think the county staff could require them to build a second entrance point, but he would like his lawyers to speak with the county attorney to understand the restrictions.

Powell agreed to add turning lanes to into the neighborhood and widen the entrance.

Horry County planning staff did not recommend planning commission to outright allow so many homes to have only one point of access. Danfort’s recommendation requires the road to be made into four lanes, add a walking path and increase drainage. The conditions in the county’s recommendation must be met for the development to go against code and only have one entrance.

Danford said his staff is comfortable with the plan, but it is up to the commission if they think it makes travel through the neighborhood safe.

Powell said he thought some of the county’s conditions are not financially or practically feasible.

Who’s going to pay?

According to county documents, the property owner is meeting with the over 20 homeowners association presidents to come to an agreement to share who pays for the road’s repairs and future maintenance.

Horry County government has no say in who pays for the private road.

For Powell and his client, the hope is for the developer and neighbors to each pay their share to maintain the road, same as if they’re paying taxes for public works.

The neighborhood has over 20 homeowners associations operating in the area with their own rules and fees. The property owner wants to create one “master” HOA to help facilitate paying for the road’s improvement.

“I think many will join voluntarily,” Powell said, but added lawsuits may be needed to get all the HOAs in line with the plan.

Planning Commission Chairman Steve Neeves said he doesn’t think the owner will ever get into line.

An informal poll of HOAs, conducted by a former HOA President Jenny Ward, showed a vast majority of the presidents of associations in the area did not want to pay for the improvements and would not join a master HOA.

If the road is not repaired, Ward does not think the elderly and disabled residents could get out in the case of an emergency, like a fire.

“When I tell you we would be toast, I mean we will be burnt to a crisp,” Ward said.

Island Green East HOA President Debbie Godman said the developer is going to make a lot of money off the new homes coming to the community. She thinks it’s on the developers to make sure the community is safe.

The county has no mandate to decide who pays for the project, but Neeves said the plan as it is proposed doesn’t work for him.

“This is one of the biggest messes in the county,” Neeves said. “I have heard from more people on this than Indian Wells.”

Since the discussion was tabled until May, Powell agreed to allow the staff more time to come to agreeable terms.

Horry County Planning Director David Schwerd said he thought there is room to make a compromise.

“I am not guaranteeing it will be approved, but I see some room,” he said.