No sale contract on tract at center of lawsuit
Georgetown County no longer has a contract to sell property at Pawleys Island that was once proposed as a technology park.
An offer from an undisclosed buyer last year led to a zoning change to allow a townhouse development and a lawsuit to overturn that change.
“There is no contract on that property,” Administrator Angela Christian said.
The county’s nonprofit Alliance for Economic Development bought the 14.4 acres on Petigru Drive in 2016 using a $950,000 loan from Santee Cooper. The county made the payments on the loan. The goal was to create a tech park to accompany the expansion of Mercom, an IT firm that owned adjacent property.
When that didn’t materialize, the county put the tract on the market.
A $1.4 million offer was received in 2020 from a developer who planned 182 apartments. That was withdrawn after public opposition.
Last April, a developer made another offer to the alliance. Neither the developer nor the price have been disclosed. It planned to build 90 townhouses with 18 units to be rented at below-market rates for five years.
The plan also drew opposition from area residents. The Planning Commission recommended the county deny a zoning change to allow multifamily residential development on the site. County Council approved the change.
In January, neighbors and citizens groups filed suit, saying the council’s approval violated state law both on procedural grounds and because the zoning doesn’t comply with the future land use maps contained in the county’s comprehensive plan.
A Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit earlier this month, but has yet to file a written order explaining his reasons.
Christian told the audience at a workshop on affordable housing this month that the contract had expired. That was in response to a question about whether the county-owned property could be used for affordable housing.
She said afterward that the property could be used for that purpose.
“That area is pricey,” she added. “Can you make the numbers work?”
The Rev. Johnny Ford, who started the Parkersville Planning and Development Alliance last year, had urged the county to work with Habitat for Humanity to create affordable housing on the former tech park site. He never got a response before the zoning was changed, and the Parkersville alliance is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“I think that ship has sailed,” Ford said this week. “I still like the concept.”
County Council Member Bob Anderson also outlined a plan to create affordable housing on the site with help from Habitat. He cast the lone vote against the townhouse plan.
Anderson said this week he doesn’t plan to revisit the idea anytime soon. He is now at work to reconcile the residential density shown in the future land use maps with the residential districts shown in the zoning ordinance.
Two other lawsuits challenging land use decisions claim that the county violated state law by allowing high density development in “general residential” zoning districts that are designated as medium density on the future land use maps.
Plaintiffs are expected to appeal the dismissal of their lawsuit, but if the “planned development” zoning on the property stands, it will allow 90 townhouses with the five-year restriction of affordability on 18 units.
“The PD is approved for that specific thing,” said Holly Richardson, the county planning director.
If there is a change in the boundaries or the density, it would require another amendment to the zoning, she said.