KIG Requests Planning Commission Follow the Rules

March 4, 2021

VIA EMAIL

Elizabeth Krauss, Chairman

Georgetown County Planning Commission

129 Screven Street

Georgetown, SC 29440


RE: Petigru Dr. 14.45 acre parcel (TMS 04-0203-189-02-00)


Dear Ms. Krauss:


Keep It Green (KIG) wishes to thank you and the other members of the Planning Commission for your dedication, hard work and commitment to serving Georgetown County. We appreciate the time and effort you take to carefully review and consider the matters that come before you.


You may or may not be aware that there have been a number of communications between KIG and the Planning Department with respect to what KIG believes should have been a mandatory review and reversion of the above referenced parcel to its former zoning classification of Forest-Agricultural (FA) pursuant to Georgetown County Zoning Ordinance 1703.


Inasmuch as our attempts to resolve this matter with the Planning Department have not been fruitful, this letter is a formal request on behalf of the citizens represented by KIG, to have the Planning Commission revert the above property to the FA zoning classification that it held prior to the approval of the planned developments that were never constructed.


For your review and consideration, I have attached a time line outlining our understanding of the title and zoning history of the three parcels that make up the current PD from 2004 to the present. The property was most recently rezoned in 2015 as a PD Technology Park. That was six years ago and construction of the technology park never happened. The land is still vacant and undisturbed. Despite the requirement of the ordinance, the property was never reverted back to its FA zoning.


Attached please find a copy of a Petition signed by more than 900 residents of the Waccamaw Neck, the majority of whom live in this general neighborhood, specifically requesting the reversion to FA zoning. These signatures were gathered in the context of a recent request to change the zoning to high density residential, which was, thankfully, withdrawn last month.


KIG has raised the reversion issue to the Planning Department on a number of occasions. The Planning Department is apparently taking the position that there were “renovations” to the existing Mercom building in 2017, and that this constitutes “construction” of the rezoned Technology Park PD as contemplated by Ordinance 1703. We disagree.


We have reviewed the permits issued for the “renovations” to the existing Mercom building. The work consisted of nothing more than some minor cosmetic repairs – replacement of some windows and the HVAC system, and painting. These minor repairs to the existing building fulfill neither the letter nor the Elizabeth Krauss March 3, 2021 Page 2 spirit of the ordinance, and they certainly do not constitute construction of the rezoned PD as contemplated by the ordinance.


Ordinance 1703 states in pertinent part:


To prevent land speculation at the expense of the general public and to insure the timing of projects in accordance with stated development objectives, construction shall start on all properties rezoned Planned Development within two (2) years after rezoning. If construction is not begun within two (2) years after rezoning to a Planned Development, the Planning Commission shall review the zoning of said property, ... and ... shall initiate proceedings to return the zoning of the property to its original classification, or to such classification as the Planning Commission deems consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.


The clear purpose and plain meaning of the ordinance is stated at the outset. To suggest that a landowner can “get around” the requirements of the ordinance merely by turning over a shovel full of dirt each year or doing some minor repairs or maintenance or renovations to an existing building flies in the face of the logical intent of the ordinance. These gestures simply do not satisfy the requirement that a rezoned PD be “constructed” as contemplated by the ordinance. If they did, the ordinance would be rendered utterly meaningless. We cannot imagine an appellate court anywhere that would affirm such an interpretation, and we continue to be puzzled by our Planning Department’s willingness to go out on a limb to embrace a tenuous position designed to get around complying with an ordinance that was enacted to protect the best interest of the public it serves.


In the present case, construction of the detailed plans submitted and approved for the Technology Park PD rezoning in 2015 was neither started nor finished, and yet, six years later the parcel remains zoned as a Technology Park PD. This is exactly what Ordinance 1703 was enacted to prevent. The property should have reverted years ago, and KIG is requesting that the Planning Commission consider this immediately.


As far as the details of the reversion are concerned, our Comprehensive Land Use Plan is clear that there are major problems in the Pawleys Island-Litchfield area with residential density, traffic, flooding, stormwater, and infrastructure. This property is in the thick of all those issues. KIG submits that the zoning classification for this parcel that is most consistent with the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan is the FA zoning classification that this parcel held before the planned developments were approved.


For these reasons, KIG respectfully requests the Planning Commission to follow the mandate of Ordinance 1703 and revert this parcel back to the FA zoning classification.


Thank you for your kind attention and consideration.


KEEP IT GREEN


By: Cindy Person


Enclosures

cc: Angela Christian, County Administrator

Louis Morant, County Council Chair

Holly Richardson, Planning Director



Petigru-Mercom Timeline fin2
.pdf
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