What did we learn from the International Drive debacle?
It’s appropriate to view the issues from both sides. It’s also be appropriate to understand the issue could have been avoided with proper planning.
Horry County had a wealth of history to draw on regarding sprawl, not the least of which was the construction of “bypass” U.S. 17. From U.S. 501 to Restaurant Row, there was virtually no development along the new “bypass” when it was built. Very soon after construction, frontage roads and businesses popped up like farm crops.
Given that, as plans for Carolina Forest took place, it should have been obvious that roads like International Drive would be needed for proper traffic flows. While the road alone would not be the answer, the county should have taken proactive steps, requiring developers to build necessary roads.
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That opportunity was missed, but the next opportunity would have been for them to honor their original agreement for International Drive to be a two-lane road with wildlife tunnels to protect bears, other wildlife and humans from the types of collisions which have occurred numerous times on highways 22, 31 and 90. But the county reneged on that deal, citing testimony that the bears had left the area after a wildfire. Anyone living in Carolina Forest can attest to the fact that the bears are back; in fact, a cub was run over by a motorist a few months ago.
The county’s logic for not honoring their agreement to protect the valuable public trust of the Lewis Reserve was terribly misguided and ludicrous. The Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina Wildlife Federation and South Carolina Environ- mental Law project have long-standing credibility for taking up causes based on merit and fact. If the county had honored their word, there would have been no lawsuits.
Both sides could have done a much better job at communicating. While the courts never ruled on the merits, a judge ruled on injunctive relief, which leaned in the direction of the popular political position in favor of development on this occasion. There have been many other cases in the past where they did not.
We learned that arrogant positions create a great deal of rancor and name calling. A great deal of animosity could have been avoided by utilizing respectful dialogue that takes every sector of the public good into account.
The issue became so polarized that temper and political dialogue got involved, to the point the public might lose an important tool to protest ill-advised development. Lawmakers are now claiming the “automatic stay” provision to halt such development before irreparable harm takes place has been abused -- and they are seeking to eliminate it.
The truth does not bear out these claims. In the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of permits have been granted. The stay was invoked only 54 times. Does that sound like abuse?
An automatic stay can be lifted by showing due cause or no irreparable harm. Each time a request has been sent to the Administrative Law Court, the stay was lifted. Curiously, no request was made to lift the Stay in this case – maybe because it was obvious that irreparable harm would occur?
I have known a lot of the people pushing this legislation since they were little kids. There was a lot more natural beauty in our area while they were growing up. It would seem that they could draw on their own experiences to take a stand for what little of that beauty is left – unless they want our area to be one continuous swath of strip malls and treeless horizons.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.