Lawsuit expected to follow approval of duplex plan – Coastal Observer


Lawsuit expected to follow approval of duplex plan

Norman Reid, center, listens to the council debate.

Approval of a 12-unit duplex development by County Council is expected to trigger another lawsuit by Pawleys Island area residents and citizens groups who say the process violates state law.

The Petigru Place project is proposed for 2 acres on Petigru Drive that are zoned for multi-family development. The Planning Commission recommended last month that the county deny approval after hearing concerns from neighbors about stormwater drainage and traffic.

Cindy Person, attorney for Keep It Green Advocacy, said the process should have ended there. Under state law, it was up to the developer, Covington Homes, to challenge the decision.

Under the county’s zoning code, the commission’s decision was a recommendation to the council.

“We believe this is not a County Council matter, by state law,” Person said.

She represents plaintiffs in three pending lawsuits against the county over zoning and land use decisions. One of those suits also involves the county’s procedure for “site plan review.” Under state law, it is up to the Planning Commission  or “designated staff” to review and approve those plans for compliance with the development regulations. Developers can appeal to Circuit Court.

The county changed from staff review to commission review in 2008 out of concern that the public was not receiving notice about new developments, said Holly Richardson, the county planning director. 

“They had no knowledge until the construction started happening,” she said.

Multi-family developments with more than 10 units with a density of at least five units an acre are reviewed by the commission, which makes a recommendation to the council.

“What is the role of council when it comes down to plan approval? I’m trying to find out why we’re always getting these,” Council Chairman Louis Morant said.

Because the development is already allowed in the “general residential” zoning district, the council’s role is only to check for compliance, Richardson said.

And she added that the Petigru Place plan complies with those regulations.

“Whether or not this development checks all the boxes of a zoning ordinance that is not valid in the first place because it doesn’t comply is really irrelevant,” Person said.

The county has moved to dismiss a suit filed in October over two townhouse developments in the Parkersville area that raised the same issue, among others. That motion has not yet come up for a hearing.

Area residents asked the council to deny approval.

“Deny, deny, deny these people coming into our community, because, after a while, where we live will look like the IOP in Charleston and Hilton Head, and we do not want that,” said James Linen, referring to the Isle of Palms.

“You’re going to hear again and again how it affects our community,” said the Rev. Johnny Ford, who lives down the road from the site. “We’re going to continue to fight this.”

Whether the council has the authority, Council Member Bob Anderson said he was prepared to follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission that the Petigru Place project doesn’t comply.

“Our job here is to follow the ordinances,” he said. “Whether or not they’re correct or incorrect is not the question here tonight.”

Anderson also pointed out that the property is in his council district.

“I’m looking at the folks I’ve been looking at for two years, and every time one of these has come up we’ve always ended up with the same answer. So tonight I’m hoping with two new councilors up here that maybe we can turn the corner and vote to deny this,” he said.

His motion to deny got a second from Council Member Everett Carolina. They were the only two in support.

The approval passed 5-2 with the new council members, Clint Elliott and Stella Mercado, in favor.

Person said after the vote that she expected her clients to challenge the decision in court.



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