072717 Land use: Zoning change for grocery store moves forward
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Land use: Zoning change for grocery store moves forward

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Elizabeth Krauss was sympathetic to Pawleys Island area residents who said the community has enough grocery stores. “I personally think we already have too many fast food restaurants,” said Krauss, who chairs the Georgetown County Planning Commission.

In a 4-3 vote, the commission recommended a change to the zoning of 4.8 acres on Highway 17 that will allow construction of a Lidl supermarket instead of mixed-use development with two fast food restaurants. “The elephant in the room is people have the perception we can decide what will go where,” Krauss said. “The ebb and flow of retail, that’s not our purpose.”

But that was the concern of seven people who spoke at the commission’s public hearing last week. “I really don’t think we have the need for another grocery store,” said Myra Blakely, a Hagley resident. But if there is, why not use some of the existing retail space that is vacant, she suggested. “We can find the space.”

“We already have five grocery stores a short distance from each other,” said Rhea Carter, a North Litchfield resident, who recalled that A&P once had a store in Pawleys Island that closed in 1995. The space remained vacant until it was torn down to make way for Publix in 2014. “I would hate to see some of these stores close.”

Marla Hamby, who lives at Allston Bluffs, remembered when there was a Harris Teeter store in Litchfield Landing. It was sold to Bi-Lo in 2001. Bi-Lo bought the Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield Market Village in 2013 and moved its store. “That whole area disintegrated when Bi-Lo moved,” Hamby said. “The last thing we need at Pawleys is another shopping center with a grocery store in it.”

The need for another grocery store was addressed in 2015, when the 4.8 acres on Highway 17 at Petigru Drive were zoned as a “flexible design district,” said Betsy Nemeth, a Pawleys Plantation resident. It didn’t include a grocery store, she noted. That’s why the property owners, Jody Tamsberg and Guerry Green, were seeking a change to the zoning.

Before the current mixed-use zoning was approved, the property was zoned for “general commercial” use. That would allow a grocery store without a public hearing.

Holly Richardson, the senior county planner, said there were some benefits to keeping the “flexible design district” zoning. Although there will only be one building and one use, it requires a higher level of landscaping and fewer environmental impacts than the commercial zoning. The grocery store will have more pervious surface to handle stormwater and have three charging stations for electric cars, a first in the county.

“We’re building more of a green project,” said Matt Anderson of Kimley-Horn and Associates, the engineer for the project. The Lidl will have 35,962 square feet, 712 more than allowed in the current zoning.

The grocery store will generate an estimated 3,561 daily trips, slightly more than the mixed-use development. However, the number of trips at peak

morning and afternoon hours is less, according to a traffic study prepared by Kimley-Horn.

Commission member Lee Shoulette questioned the study’s conclusion that the grocery store will have no impact on existing traffic. He sat at the intersection of Highway 17 and Petigru for 20 minutes to watch the existing traffic on his way to last week’s meeting. There were 20 cars stacked in the northbound lane waiting for the traffic signal to change so they could turn west onto Petigru, he said.

Without someone to prevent cars from turning into the highway entrance Lidl will share with Pawleys Island Wines and Spirits, “I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Shoulette said. “Midway [Fire and Rescue] does a lot of business at that intersection.”

Under current conditions, the intersection is rated C at peak times on a scale from A to F. That isn’t forecast to change. Shoulette questioned whether the study, done in March, actually reflected peak traffic. “Maybe traffic’s a little heavier in July in Pawleys Island,” he said.

Jonathan Guy, a traffic engineer for Kimley-Horn, said the state Department of Transportation decided it wanted data that included school traffic rather than the seasonal peak.

Shoulette opposed the rezoning along with commission members Norma Grant and Zach Grate. The change now goes to Georgetown County Council for three readings.

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