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Golf carts: DOT won’t lower speed limit on South Causeway

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The state Department of Transportation won’t lower the speed limit on the South Causeway to allow golf cart traffic, according to the district traffic engineer.

The Pawleys Plantation Property Owners Association had asked that the speed limit be reduced as part of a plan to add a golf cart entrance to the gated community with access to the South Causeway from Rybolt Road. The ultimate goal was to allow residents and visitors to drive golf carts to the beach at Pawleys Island.

Under state law, golf carts are limited to roads with speed limits of 35 mph and under. The limit on the South Causeway at Rybolt Road is 40 mph. It drops to 35 mph before crossing Pawleys Creek.

Michael Bethea, DOT’s district traffic engineer, said the decision wasn’t based on golf carts alone. “That first part of the road is straight. We felt like people could drive it” at 40 mph, he said. “We don’t recommend lowering it.”

The town of Pawleys Island opposed the request citing concerns about additional golf cart traffic on the island’s narrow roads. Bethea said he had similar concerns along the South Causeway. “By allowing golf carts, it could create a safety hazard,” he said. “When you mix golf carts and cars on the same road, that’s not a good mix.”

Residents in the neighborhoods along Rybolt Road also say they don’t want the additional traffic that they believe the side entrance will bring. Although Rybolt Road is a county road, the pavement stops short of a fence along the Pawleys Plantation boundary.

The Pawleys Plantation POA board has endorsed the project and put it up for a vote by its membership at their annual meeting Monday. The gate would be limited to golf carts, bicycles and pedestrians and have an access management system, according to information provided to owners.

The POA board believes the additional entrance will be an amenity that will increase property values, although it acknowledged there will be additional traffic within the community that may have an adverse impact on homes along Masters Drive where the access will be located.

George Roletter, a board member who has led the effort for the access, declined to comment other than to note that the vote is pending and to add, “tell those people on the other side of the fence saying we can’t drive on county roads to have a ball.”

If property owners approve the entrance, the POA will have to apply to Georgetown County for a change in the community’s “planned development” zoning. The county planning department decided that the entrance would be a major charge to the zoning that would require a public hearing before the Planning Commission and three readings by County Council.

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