020818 Land use: Board denies variance for flat roof on McDonald’s
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A rendering shows what the proposed renovation would look like.

Land use: Board denies variance for flat roof on McDonald’s

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A planned renovation of the McDonald’s restaurant at Pawleys Island will take longer now that the owner has to design a pitched roof for the building. But Brad Valdes, the franchise owner, said he understands.

“I completely understand. I love Pawleys Island,” he told the Georgetown County Board of Zoning Appeals after its unanimous vote last week to deny a variance for a flat roof.

The restaurant was built in 1999, before the county adopted a design code for commercial buildings in the Highway 17 corridor on Waccamaw Neck. That code now requires buildings to have roofs with at least a 6-12 pitch. A flat roof can be used over a portion of the building as long as it isn’t visible from the highway.

Valdes plans a $700,000 renovation of the $851,800 restaurant, more than the threshold for bringing the building into compliance.

But the architect for the project, Kyle Woudstra, told the appeals board that it will be hard to comply because of the way the original building was designed. “If this was a new building, we’d have a different conversation,” he said.

He said the majority of the cost of the renovation will be spent on the interior of the building. The restaurant got a variance last year to the county parking requirements so it could remove some spaces in order to expand its drive-through lanes. In exchange, the county asked for a connection between the restaurant, which fronts on Highway 17, and Richardson Lane, which runs behind the building between Waverly Road and the Pawleys Island Plaza.

“The roof is always the hard part,” said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director. But he told the appeals board that many other projects have managed to comply since the design code was adopted in 2001.

Not all the buildings were small. The Fresh Market grocery has over 20,000 square feet. “You can imagine how many hours we spent measuring the roof pitch and working with the architects, but we got it done,” Johnson said.

The McDonald’s request was only the second one for a roof-pitch variance, he noted.

There are four criteria that must be met for obtaining a variance, including the inability to use a property if the rules are applied. That can’t be met by the restaurant, Johnson said. “You can buy a hamburger there today.”

But Woudstra said it will be a financial hardship to move all the mechanical systems on the roof to change the design. It will also require moving interior duct work. “Yes, it’s a financial cost, but a large part is the constructability and feasibility of it,” he said.

Valdes said he was also “constrained by corporate.”

The board wasn’t persuaded.

“What bothers me is there are hundreds of buildings on the Waccamaw Neck. Each one has their potential problems,” Tim Onions, the appeals board chairman, said. “It’s an issue that’s going to come back to haunt us” if the board allowed a variance for a flat roof.

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