051817 Pawleys Island: Questions about site slow pace of Town Hall project
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Pawleys Island: Questions about site slow pace of Town Hall project

By Charles Swenson

Forty-seven years after it burned, people are still coming back to the site of the last Pawleys Pavilion. The property has changed a little and most of that happened since Hurricane Matthew.

Where kids once parked their Fords and Chevys, Pawleys Island Police now park their SUVs. The portable office that houses a temporary Town Hall sits across the street. And the street itself is under consideration as the site for a more permanent Town Hall.

The Pawleys Pavilion Reunion on Saturday will draw hundreds of people to share the nostalgia for the island’s past as the town tries to figure out a design for its future. The property itself is owned by the nonprofit Pawleys Pavilion Co. and leased to the town for $1 a year as the Pawleys Island Nature Park.

“The Pawleys Pavilion Co. looks at themselves as the steward of that property for the island, not the town,” Mayor Bill Otis said. He was president of the company before being elected to Town Council 22 years ago. It was formed by island families to allow construction of what turned out to be the last of a series of pavilions.

The pavilion company asked the town to outline its reasons for wanting to build a new Town Hall at the site. The idea of using the street right-of-way as a building site was proposed by a resident and embraced by the council. But if the town asks the state Department of Transportation to close the road, the pavilion company will claim the land as the adjacent property owner. It is willing to lease the property to the town for a nominal amount for a long term. “They’re willing to move quickly,” Otis said, adding that he offered to meet with the current board of the pavilion company, but was not invited to its annual meeting.

In addition to soliciting a resolution from the town that the Pavilion Lane site is the preferred location, the pavilion company asked for assurance that closing the street wouldn’t create a traffic problem. Pavilion Lane forms a triangle with the North Causeway and Myrtle Avenue. Otis has met with engineers from the state Department of Transportation to discuss adding a right-turn lane on the North Causeway at the Myrtle Avenue intersection. “It’s in nobody’s interest to create a traffic problem at that corner,” he said.

Town Council voted 4-1 on a pair of resolutions last week. The dissenting vote came from Council Member Sarah Zimmerman. She pointed out that the town owns a lot on the southwest corner of the North Causeway and Myrtle Avenue. A building on the lot that had been a store and then a private home was torn down. The site was included in the Nature Park with landscaping funded by private donations to the Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation.

The town bought the 6,000-square-foot lot in 2010 for $375,000 with the idea that it could be used for a replacement to the 450-square-foot Town Hall. It’s across the street from the Town Hall that was flooded by Hurricane Matthew.

Zimmerman said it makes more sense to build on property the town owns rather than property it would lease. “I don’t think we’re being good stewards” to build on leased land, she said.

Council Member Rocky Holiday said he wants to get more community input on the Town Hall project. It was the subject of a town meeting in January. Opinions were mixed on the need for a new building. Since then, the town has learned that the old building can be repaired and still comply with federal flood regulations. Estimates range from $7,200 to $10,000.

But the town has moved forward with plans to hire an architect to design a new Town Hall. A contract with the Graham Group was up for a vote last week, but deferred until the council could get more details on the price.

In the meantime, a preliminary estimate of the space needed in the new Town Hall came up with 1,466 square feet. That includes three offices, a small conference room and, because the building will be raised to meet flood regulations, an elevator. The cost estimate is $375,000 to $425,000.

“Council needs to be thinking about whether they want to do this or not,” Otis said.

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