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Georgetown Co. Council approves Parkersville development amendments over steep opposition

Vincent Davis

Vincent Davis of the Pawleys Island Civic Club voices his opposition to a mixed-use development in the Parkersville area at the Nov. 8, 2022, meeting of the Georgetown County Council. Mike Woodel/Staff

GEORGETOWN — Georgetown County Council gave final approval Nov. 8 to a pair of ordinances allowing residences on a parcel in the Pawleys Island Business Commons Planned Development in Parkersville.

The project entails a mix of commercial and residential development including 90 housing units, with 30 percent rented below market rate. In addition to the mixed use, the council approved an amendment to the county's Future Land Use Map reclassifying the Petigru Drive parcel as high-density residential instead of commercial.

The county Planning Commission voted against both Business Commons ordinances 5-0 with one abstention on Sept. 15, citing noncompliance with the county's comprehensive plan.

Twenty-three people spoke in the Nov. 8 public hearing, each in opposition to the Business Commons ordinances. Some deemed the project another example of gentrification in the southern Waccamaw Neck, including the historically African American community of Parkersville, while others questioned the project's definition of affordable housing and the ethics of council members who voted in its favor.

"It's madness what you are trying to do to us in Pawleys Island," Parkersville resident Michael Green said.

Nicole Barksdale told the council that the development, through its effect on area property taxes, could make more people homeless than it could house.

"Please follow the recommendation of your planning commission and vote no on this rezoning," Barksdale said.

Several speakers took aim at Councilman Steve Goggans, who represents the district in which the Business Commons development is located. Goggans declined to run for reelection and will be replaced by fellow Republican Stella Mercado in January.

"Steve, you leave a legacy of overcrowding, irresponsible growth, poor planning, confusion, frustrati(on), half-truths, and, in my opinion, lies," Mary Black said.

Approval of the project comes just two weeks after seven Parkersville residents filed a lawsuit against the county seeking to nullify the council's Sept. 27 site plan approval of two townhome developments in the area.

The council approved both the Future Land Use Map amendment and the mixed-use amendment by votes of 4-1 with only Councilman Bob Anderson opposed. Councilman Everett Carolina recused himself from both votes, as he had when the ordinances came before the council for second reading on Oct. 25, citing a conflict of interest.

Anderson spoke near the end of the meeting about the gap between the amount of tax revenue generated by the Waccamaw Neck and that of the county's mainland districts. The Waccamaw Neck generated about 76 percent of county property tax revenue in 2019, according to a South Strand News report.

Anderson called for economic growth in the mainland county to adjust the imbalance in tax revenue, and also said Waccamaw Neck residents have frequently reached out to the council about fears of quality-of-life effects due to a lack of updates to county zoning ordinances.

"I call this taxation without representation," Anderson said.

Opponents of the project also called for the recusal of Chairman Louis Morant and Councilman Raymond Newton from voting on either Business Commons ordinance, arguing that their presence constituted a conflict of interest.

The parcel in question has been owned by the Alliance for Economic Development for Georgetown County since 2016. Morant and Newton serve on both the county council and the Alliance's board and each voted in favor of the Business Commons ordinances on second and third reading.

When asked by Councilwoman Lillie Johnson if they stood to benefit economically from their service on the Alliance, Morant and Newton both replied in the negative. An economic interest placing a public official afoul of South Carolina ethics law must be "distinct from that of the general public" in a transaction and be worth $50 or more.

The S.C. Ethics Commission could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any previous ethics complaints made against Newton. Morant received a written warning from the commission in February and agreed to a $400 fine for participating in a second reading vote in 2021 that involved a land transaction by Tidelands Health, whose board of directors includes his wife, Dr. Marthena Morant.

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Mike Woodel reports on Georgetown County for The Post and Courier. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2018 and previously worked for newspapers in Montana and South Dakota.