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Pawleys Island: Town looks at "50 percent rule" for renovations

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A rule that requires buildings on Pawleys Island to be brought into compliance with zoning codes if renovations exceed 50 percent of their value will be up for review by the town Planning Commission next week. The town’s interpretation of the rule was at the heart of a dispute between neighbors that reached Circuit Court last year.

The issue is important because town officials say a large number of the island’s small lots have setback violations. The effect of the rule has been to limit renovations in the town.

A judge questioned the town’s interpretation, but said there was still enough evidence to support the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals that required a south end property owner to remove a deck and set of stairs from the back of his house.

That ruling was issued in November. Neither side appealed the court’s decision, so the Planning Commission is now taking a look at the so-called “50-percent rule.”

In 2010, Carolyn Camlin challenged the certificate of occupancy granted by Georgetown County building officials on behalf of the town to Tom Davy. The Davy house is behind the Camlin house and its deck comes within a foot of the common property line.

In a hearing before the appeals board, Camlin’s attorney showed that the value of renovations to the Davy house, including adding a second deck with stairs, exceeded 50 percent of the value of the house. But the county’s chief building official, Robert Cox, testified that the town has applied the rule incorrectly. It only applies when a structure is damaged or destroyed, he said.

The town attorney, David DuRant, said the town has consistently applied the rule to renovation.

The appeals board ordered Davy to remove the second story on his deck, saying it expanded a non-conforming structure. He and Camlin both appealed the decision, with Davy saying it went too far and Camlin saying it didn’t go far enough.

Judge William H. Seals Jr. upheld the board’s decision, but noted that the code “contains no specific prohibitions against renovations to an existing structure, in the absence of damage or destruction, containing any limitation to the dollar value of the renovations relative to the fair market value of the existing structure.”

The commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Pawleys Island Realty office.

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