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Pawleys Plaza: Council fires ARB after variance granted

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council members won’t trust an architectural review board with any more decisions regarding its Waccamaw Neck commercial corridor design standards after a roof variance was granted for Pawleys Plaza last week.

After a 90-minute executive session Tuesday, council members agreed to abolish the Waccamaw Neck Architectural Review Board and amend the zoning ordinance creating it. Council Member Jerry Oakley said that process would take at least 10 weeks. Other action regarding the board was immediate: All members were dismissed.

“They serve at the pleasure of council,” Oakley said.

County Council will now decide if a developer of a “planned development” can get a variance from design standards established along the Waccamaw Neck commercial corridor.

Council members were unanimous in their action, according to Chairman Johnny Morant.

The architectural review board had not met in more than nine years when it was called upon last week to hear a request for a variance from Sunbelt Ventures, developers of Pawleys Plaza, to skirt pitched roof requirements in the Waccamaw Neck overlay zone. The board granted Sunbelt a variance on requirements that 50 percent of the roofs on new buildings at Pawleys Plaza be pitched rather than flat by a vote of 5-1.

Mack Cross, development associate for Sunbelt, said the proposed redevelopment met all requirements of the code except the requirement that no more than 50 percent of a building’s roof be flat. “The requirement restricts development of the property,” he said.

Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis, Don’t Box The Neck chairman SueAnn Crawford and others asked the board to deny the variance because a number of developers had worked hard and paid extra to meet the building code. Otis said this week he hoped that County Council would act to overturn the variance in Circuit Court.

“It’s a very, very significant ruling that I think a lot of people haven’t come to understand yet,” he said.

If the county doesn’t act, Otis said he believes other interested parties can step in, much like the town has done in defending a permit issued to the county to build a groin that was appealed by environmental groups.

County attorney Wesley Bryant said County Council members did not contemplate Sunbelt’s variance during its executive session.

Oakley said County Council has no authority to overturn the decision to grant the variance. It must be done in Circuit Court. “The council’s action doesn’t affect the variance,” Oakley said.

Ron Swinson, a developer of Pawleys Market at the South Causeway, told the architectural review board that if Sunbelt got a roof variance he would consider seeking one. He said this week that he’s still considering it even though footings are being poured for the Lowes Foods store next week.

Architects could change the roof plans, he said.

Tuesday’s action will mean that Swinson must get County Council approval to vary from design standards.

Steve Goggans, who was elected chairman before the board met, said the ARB was not used enough to be relevant.

“A board that meets every seven, eight or nine years, its relevance is in question,” Goggans said. “I think you either have an ARB that meets regularly and acts regularly or you don’t have one. The way it operates in other communities like Myrtle Beach, Mount Pleasant and Charleston is they meet regularly and provide design input not merely as an appellant.”

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