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Golf carts: POA members vote down plan for new access

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Property owners in Pawleys Plantation narrowly defeated a proposal by their association board to create a second access to the gated community. It would have allowed golf cart, bicycle and pedestrian access to the South Causeway, giving residents and visitors a new route to the beach on Pawleys Island.

The project was opposed in neighborhoods along Rybolt Road between the Pawleys Plantation boundary and the South Causeway, where residents were concerned about increased traffic. It was also opposed by the town of Pawleys Island because of the potential for increased golf cart traffic in a community where the vehicles were once banned.

“It got more into a golf cart thing. It took on a life of its own,” said David Gundling, a property owner in Pawleys Plantation who helped work on the access project. “That’s probably what sank it.”

The additional access was defeated by nine votes, according to people who attended the meeting.

Property owners along Masters Drive in Pawleys Plantation opposed the access because the connection with Rybolt Road would have brought more traffic onto their street. (Gundling, who lives on that street, was an exception.) “It was too controversial and it served no purpose,” said Dennis Cangelosi, a Masters Drive resident. “Years ago we were offered a path from Bike the Neck that would have been the pathway if you wanted to go to the beach. It wouldn’t have cost the community a dime.”

The bike path would have run along Highway 17. The connection was rejected by the property owners association board. That portion of the Bike the Neck route from Georgetown to the Horry County line still has no path.

The proposed access was seen as a safer alternative to Highway 17 and as a way to increase property values by providing easier access to the beach, according to the POA board. Although work started last fall to prepare the connection between Masters Drive and Rybolt Road, which is a county street, installation of an actual gate on the fenced boundary was delayed until the association members could take a vote at their annual meeting.

In the meantime, the POA board asked the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit along the South Causeway from 40 to 35 mph. Golf carts are restricted to roads with speed limits of 35 mph and below. DOT declined to make the change.

Had the POA members approved the project, it still would have required approval from Georgetown County because Pawleys Plantation is a “planned development” zoning district. County planning staff determined the new access would require a public hearing before the Planning Commission and three votes of County Council. Residents along Rybolt Road were prepared for that. They had already collected signatures on petitions opposing the access.

“We would have had traffic we would never have had before,” Karen Yaniga, a Rybolt Road resident, said. But opponents agreed to keep quiet until Pawleys Plantation owners voted. “We didn’t want to be seen bickering. That’s not helpful to the community,” Yaniga said. “We’re pleased it ended there. I think that’s the right place for the decision to be made.”

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