Horry County evaluates development in wake of Florence

Flooding impact on Co. comprehensive plan - create new story

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) -Horry County is reevaluating some of its future goals for development throughout the area following widespread flooding.

Prior to Florence, the county completed a draft of its comprehensive plan for the next 20 years, but planning committee members said they will make some changes after seeing the effect of Florence.

The plan, IMAGINE 2040, sets guidelines for the county in nine elements, including land use, population and housing.

The initial draft of the plan states it aims to, “minimize future flood losses through regulations, policies, education and training.”

Some of these objectives related to flooding include:

· Adopt revised flood maps.

· Adopt policy/regulation to prohibit new critical facilities from being built in 100 and 500-year flood zones.

· Maintain at least 6 certified floodplain managers on staff.

· Provide incentives for developers to use low impact development techniques.

“We’re definitely going to have to go back to the drawing board in some areas but for the most part it {flooding} was kind of taken into consideration initially when we did the plan because you never know and you have to plan for any potential disasters and this was definitely a disaster,” said Chris Hennigan, IMAGINE 2040 committee member and Planning Commission member.

Committee chair Steven Neeves said some of these areas include undeveloped land along Highway 90 and 905, land along the waterway, Socastee and Forestbrook.

As more development occurs throughout the county, members said they face the increasing challenge of balancing growth with current residential areas.

“Do we allow growth to continue or slow growth?” Neeves questioned.

It’s a question, many members said the county will need to answer going forward.

“I hope the property that is left in this county to develop is looked at very closely,” IMAGINE 2040 committee member Pam Creech said.

On one hand, the county needs more roads and infrastructure to support a growing population. Yet, on the other hand, development can strip away land that once collected water.

“It’s very difficult to look these people in the face when they have water in their driveways, in their garages, in their homes, yet you have another group of people that want to come in and continue to build, so where is the water going to go?” Hennigan said.

For Hennigan, this is the million-dollar question. It’s also one that he thinks the planning commission and IMAGINE 2040 committee frequently discuss.

Creech said she doesn’t think the current plan is strict enough.

“We’re going to have to do better,” she said.

Creech predicts future development will be more of a challenge and more expensive. She believes there is an increasing need to keep more forests and wetlands, so flood waters have somewhere to go.

“Because it has to go somewhere and going in people’s homes and on their properties and damaging them for potentially the rest of their lives is not an option,” Hennigan echoed.

Neeves anticipates the county will have lots of discussion on zoning for high density versus low density.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how we handle that because in the past it’s been low density, low density,” Neeves said.

Neeves said there will be lots of questions related to development and growth for the county to answer in the future. He said the county will look at some areas like Florida and Georgia that experienced similar growth.

Hennigan is optimistic about future resolution within the county.

“It takes time and it takes money and at the end of the day we have to be patience in our development,” he said. “I think once again if everyone can just understand from both sides and both perspectives, I think we can move forward as a community, as a city, as a state.”

IMAGINE 2040 is merely a vision for the county or a suggestion to County Council. None of the guidelines are guaranteed to be followed.

“It’s not a resolution and it’s not a law, it’s a guideline. It should be followed more strictly, and it should be stricter to protect the people who were born and raised in the county and those that are coming and buying houses,” Creech stressed.

In the coming weeks, the draft will be passed on to the Planning Commission before City Council reviews and approves the plan.

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