I want to extend my thanks to the Planning Commission after their last meeting where they voted 5-0 in favor of denying the rezoning request for the proposed 182 apartments on Petigru. All those who emailed, called, signed petitions, attended, and spoke to the Commission know that while this was a strong step forward it is not over. The County Council will be reviewing this rezoning application on December 8th.
The reasons to deny this request are numerous and well-articulated by the residents at last weeks’ meeting and by the Commission members themselves. Let’s review:
First, this request flies in the face of the Current Land Use Element that clearly states the goal to “protect low and medium density residential neighborhoods from commercial/high density encroachment”. This application pushes the density from 0 apartments on this undeveloped land to 182 apartments, the maximum allowable density. This property is directly adjacent to low/medium density single family homes.
Second, the Land Use Element details why this encroachment is so dangerous due to increased traffic. The traffic study that was completed for this application was flawed from the beginning. It makes no sense to say that 50% of the traffic will use Commerce. Those who travel Petigru between Waverly and MLK know what it means to add 1,000+ trips per day. Disaster for neighbors who drive there, walk there, and live there.
Third, the Land Use Element also addresses the issues of storm water runoff and flooding. Residents of Pawleys Island know all too well what rain means; light rain or heavy rain will bring serious flooding. Just ask the folks in Hammock Cove. One resident spoke Thursday sharing pictures and video of horrendous flooding from the last rain we had, not a hurricane just a regular run of the mill rain. What’s more, retention ponds are not the answer. Hammock Cove has 5 retention ponds to manage stormwater. Retention ponds are failing this community. Let’s not compound the problem with high density on a property that is adjacent to wetlands and fraught with flooding.
Finally, most alarming was what we learned about the buyer of this property. Clearly, they would not be good neighbors. We need only look to their current property, Waterleaf in Murrells Inlet, as evidence. At the meeting we learned from the applicant that they violated the tree ordinance and cut down 71 protected trees. How does a responsible builder allow that to happen? While they were fined by the County, they admitted to paying $0. They paint a picture of themselves as providers of “affordable” housing for our workforce and have mentioned first responders and teachers as target residents. Only 9 out of 182 will fall into the affordable housing category. 9? At the cost of flooding hundreds of families in the surrounding neighborhoods and increased traffic risk for all residents on the lower neck? Surely there is a better option.
We would all agree that Georgetown County needs more affordable housing, but this is not the property. Currently there are at least 3 tracts of land that are zoned for this type of multifamily housing. We suggest that Graycliff Capitol and others select those properties. In the meantime, let’s explore a more optimal solution for the Petigru property - one that works for the County and for the neighborhood.