080317 Town Hall: Seven rooms, two baths, creek view. $400,000.
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A rendering shows the view from Myrtle Avenue. The elevator and stairs are in the “tower.”

Town Hall: Seven rooms, two baths, creek view. $400,000.

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The elevator shaft is too high. The windows are too low. The porch is too big. A committee sent the architect back to his drawing board to refine the new Pawleys Island Town Hall even while acknowledging that his options are limited by the size of the lot.

“We’ve used up every square foot,” said David Graham, principal in the Graham Group. “If we had a different lot size, the building could be different.”

The town is at work to build a new facility at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and the North Causeway, across the street from the Town Hall that was flooded by Hurricane Matthew last fall.

The town bought the lot in 2010 to supplement the Nature Park that occupies the adjoining 3 acres. The park site is owned by the nonprofit Pawleys Island Pavilion Co. and a part of it was once home to the last of the island’s celebrated summer dance halls. Town Council initially sought to build the new Town Hall within the park, but the pavilion company rejected the idea.

The nonprofit’s board did agree to give the town a 2,000 square foot strip that will allow the Town Hall to be set back from Myrtle Avenue and preserve a fence and arbor built for the park. Without the donation, the Town Hall couldn’t comply with the town’s development ordinance that limits a building to 40 percent of a lot’s area. “We would have a box on stilts,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

The 1,759 square feet of office space the town proposes to build are based on the requirements for its seven full-time employees: five police officers, the town clerk and the administrator. The building also has to be elevated to meet flood regulations. It needs an elevator to meet public access requirements and two sets of stairs to meet fire codes. After two hurricanes in two years, the town decided the new building will also have a generator.

A committee of Town Council, the Planning Commission and the nonprofit Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation was formed to review the design.

Fran Green, who serves on the Planning Commission and the foundation board, said at a meeting last week she has heard complaints about “the tower,” which is formed by extending the roof of the elevator shaft and stairway that wraps around it. “They just don’t like the look of the tower,” she said.

“I could make it not look like a tower,” Graham said.

Jane Avinger was troubled by the lack of a discernible entrance. “It’s not going to be very inviting. It’s not like there’s a front door,” she said.

“One thing the tower does is identify the entrance,” Graham said.

He designed the building with a 1,205-square-foot wraparound porch that he said “sort of gives us that Pawleys look.”

But committee members asked if the porch needed to be that large, particularly after they voted to recommend to Town Council that the building not be used for functions other than town business. Ed Fox, a Planning Commission member, said it would end up looking like a beach access. “Do we want that kind of environment?” he said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re building this for.”

In that case, “what is the point of that porch on the back side?” Avinger asked.

The committee voted 7-6 to have Graham draft another version of the plan with a smaller tower and a reduced porch. They also questioned why the windows in the tower didn’t line up. That was because they are oriented to the interior stairs, he explained.

There were other suggestions, but Otis said, “let’s not get too far into design. That’s why we hired him.”

What the committee did like was the color (white with Charleston green trim) and the metal roof. And they liked Otis’ suggestion that the site tie into the existing park. “That’s all the more reason to reduce the tower,” Green said.

But some committee members said they voted for the new rendering just to see the alternative. “It may look worse,” Fox said. “I don’t have a big problem with the tower.”

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