What’s next? Zoning fight raises doubts on both sides
Restrictions on land use limit the ability of people to own homes on the Waccamaw Neck. “We cannot defend a tree rather than a human being when it comes to the right to build a home,” Cynthia Murray said in a letter to Georgetown County Council members. “What will be the next step?
Murray is a real estate agent who is representing Benjamin Goff in his effort to change the zoning on 14.8 acres to allow quarter-acre lots instead of half-acre lots.
The citizens group Keep It Green argues that residents have rights, too, including being able to rely on existing zoning to know how the area will develop.
“The proposed change would lead to what our comprehensive plan wants to prevent: more traffic and flooding,” Mary Beth Klein, a leader of Keep It Green, told the council last month. “Where will it end?”
Council Members Bob Anderson and John Thomas said this week that they oppose the rezoning because it increases the density of development that could occur on the Goff property.
“I’m worried about population density and particularly what it does to traffic,” Anderson said. “The reason that I ran is that we have got to put a cap on population density on Waccamaw Neck while we still can.”
The Planning Commission voted 3-2 last month to recommend the zoning change for the property on the east side of Highway 17 south of Waterford Road. One member was absent and one member, Johnny Weaver, recused himself because he works with the Litchfield Co. which owns the Lachicotte Co. where Murray is an agent.
County Council Chairman Louis Morant said he may recuse himself when the request comes up for discussion and second reading next week. His law firm has represented Goff in various real estate transactions.
“I think there are the votes to deny the rezoning,” Thomas said.
The land-use element of the county’s comprehensive plan sets the goal of limiting the number of new residential units allowed and restricting increases in residential density to projects that provide “usable” open space.
“That’s enough justification in my mind to deny the rezoning,” Thomas said.
Council Member Steve Goggans said he was “leaning toward approval,” but added that he would feel better if the request was for a “planned development” or “flexible design district” zoning that would specify the number of units allowed.
“That makes sense coming and going,” he said.
While Keep It Green has argued that the change would allow up to 64 houses on the property, county planning staff have said the increase would likely be from 24 under the current zoning to 40 under the proposed change.
“I don’t think the increase is significant,” Goggans said.
In a letter to council members, Goff said the property needs to be developed to provide housing for a growing economy. “The unintended consequences of individuals, groups and organizations opposing population growth will be the stagnation of economic growth and prosperity of the entire county,” he said.
Murray pointed out that Goff, who lives in Massachusetts, grew up in Georgetown County. “Groups have emerged that infringe on the rights of citizens who have lived here for a lifetime and are becoming shut out from access to homeownership,” she told the council in her letter.
“Keep It Green fully supports Mr. Goff’s desire to sell his property as it’s currently zoned,” Klein said. “He has no right to a zoning change.”
Residents in The Colony subdivision just south of the Goff, which was also rezoned to allow its development, say the rezoning would reduce their property values.
Goff noted in his letter that people who argue that an owner shouldn’t be allowed to increase the value of his property “will increase their property values and sales prices by minimizing supply and increasing demand.”
Anderson, whose district includes the Goff property, wasn’t convinced. When he first served on the council, he said, “we made a pact that we’re all about development and redevelopment as long as it doesn’t impact density, and I’m still that way.”
The council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Howard Center.